On Wednesday, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a discussion draft of legislation that proposes sweeping reform to marijuana policy in the US. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would decriminalize marijuana federally, expunge federal non-violent cannabis convictions (and encourage states to do the same), and create “new grant programs to fund nonprofits that provide services to those adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.”
In the introduction to the 30-page draft legislation, the senators note that adult use of cannabis is already legal in 18 states, Washington D.C., the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Medicinal marijuana is even more widespread, legal in 37 states, Puerto Rico, D.C., Guam, and the US Virgin Islands.
“These changes represent a dynamic shift in public opinion and support across the political spectrum,” the statement notes. “State-compliant cannabis businesses will finally be treated like other businesses and allowed access to essential financial services, like bank accounts and loans. Medical research will no longer be stifled.”
Despite recent state actions, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level and subject to prosecution by federal agencies even in states where cannabis use is permitted. In practice, those prosecutions have been limited, but the risk of federal action has meant that marijuana businesses have limited options when it came to banking and many non-recreational uses of the plant have been stifled.