The nation’s leading cannabis reform advocacy organization submitted its comments to draft legislation that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana.

The draft bill – the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) – is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, and Sen. Cory Booker and would federally deschedule marijuana as a controlled substance.

It would also facilitate expungement of prior low-level marijuana convictions, allow individuals serving time for nonviolent cannabis-related offenses to petition the courts for resentencing, and formally allow states to set their own marijuana policies, while prohibiting the denial of federal benefits, like immigration and welfare, on the basis of cannabis use or possession.

The three Senate lawmakers unveiled their proposal to federally reform the country’s cannabis laws with a call for public input on the proposal before it’s finalized and put to a congressional vote. This call has been heeded by NORML, which has campaigned for an end to federal cannabis criminalization in the US since the 1970s.

“We appreciate the leadership by Senators Schumer, Booker, and Wyden in their efforts to end America’s failed, unjust, and racially biased experiment with cannabis prohibition,” said NORML political director Justin Strekal.

“The CAOA draft represents a thoughtful path forward toward ending federal marijuana criminalization. We are confident that similar language, once finalized and formally introduced in the US Senate, will possess bipartisan appeal — as we know that voters of all political parties strongly support repealing the federal government’s failed marijuana policies,” he added.

NORML political director Justin Strekal discusses the draft bill to end federal cannabis prohibition during a livestreamed event.

NORML’s feedback on the CAOA covers various areas, including restorative justice, employee protections, equitable business opportunities and tax exemptions for medical cannabis users.

Specifically, NORML calls for strengthened civic protections that would clear all marijuana-related criminal and arrest records. It also advises that workplace requirements for THC drug testing be either revised or prohibited altogether, depending on the role performed.

NORML also wants to ensure that small and local businesses are able to compete with larger, multi-state operators in the legal cannabis industry. To that end, it calls for a reduction of the regulatory and tax burdens of smaller marijuana businesses.

NORML recommends narrowing the scope of CAOA’s excise tax proposals to ensure medical marijuana patients are exempt from paying for medication recommended by a physician.

Finally, NORML advises a re-balancing of the various regulatory bodies in a manner similar to that in place for other adult-use substances like alcohol and tobacco, with a view to ensuring state-legal cannabis programs can continue as before post-federal legalization.

“While no legislation is perfect, the CAOA represents a legislative vehicle that could navigate its way to the President’s desk for his signature. Never before have we been able to say that,” Strekal noted at the end of NORML’s comment submission.

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