As a result of the November elections, the Senate now is split 50/50. However, as the vice president has a casting vote this really means the Democrats have control and Chuck Schumer is now the Senate Majority Leader.
Last week he stated that lawmakers are in the process of merging various marijuana bills, including his own legalization legislation, as the chamber works to enact reform this session. Clearly good news for the marijuana industry and those who make use of this plant, both for recreational and medical purposes.
We reported the passing of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in the House of Representatives in December. It stood little hope of moving forward at that time as the Senate was still controlled by the Republicans, but now times have changed.
While it is not clear which bills are being merged another, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is probably one that would federally deschedule marijuana, reinvest tax revenue into communities most impacted by the drug war, and fund efforts to expunge prior cannabis records. Some funding would also be provided to
The Democratic majority’s plan would include expunging marijuana records, using some tax revenue from cannabis sales to reinvest in those communities most impacted by the war on drugs. There would also be provisions to ensure that large corporations don’t monopolize the market.
Although President Biden has not totally backed full legalization and has expressed a preference for relatively modest cannabis reforms, there is hope that he would not veto or seek to undermine broad marijuana legislation that has the support of congressional leaders.
Another benefit that could also arise with legalization is the ability of banks to provide normal business services to marijuana companies. This alone would enable smaller businesses to operate in a normal commercial fashion. With access to a bank account, business loans, use of credit cards, etc. The senator in 2019 had supported reform advocates who argued that passing a bill to protect banks that service the marijuana industry was not enough.
Already in 2021, two congressional marijuana bills have been filed: one to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act and another to prevent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from denying veterans benefits solely because they use medical marijuana in compliance with state law.
In contrast, whilst the Senate appears to be moving further in favor of marijuana Idaho lawmakers approve a resolution that would quash 2022 marijuana legalization initiatives. The Senate State Affairs Committee approved the resolution along party lines in a 6-2 vote, moving it to the full chamber for consideration.
It stipulates that “the production, manufacture, transportation, sale, delivery, dispensing, distribution, possession, or use of a psychoactive drug shall not be permitted in the state of Idaho.”
It would make an exception for substances that are approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but it would seriously damage efforts to establish a medical cannabis program that looks anything like those implemented in other legal states.
How this would stand if the Senate moves marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 111 remains to be seen.