Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged to introduce a bill to Congress before the August recess that would federally legalize marijuana.
Schumer has been working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on the legislation – the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) – for more than a year. Marijuana reform advocates and industry stakeholders have expressed frustration over the delay, with Schumer having previously committed to putting the reform to a floor vote in the Senate by April this year.
However, the senators said the measure requires more time in order to incorporate public feedback as well as input from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers. The Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate, but not all of Schumer’s party colleagues are convinced by federal marijuana legalization.
Schumer revealed the new timeline during the National Cannabis Policy Summit.
“Make no mistake, I’m working diligently with my Senate colleagues to make sure that the federal government catches up to states and the public,” Schumer said. “This bill will be comprehensive, and I promise we will introduce this important legislation before the August recess.”
The majority leader in the Senate went on to say that the CAOA is still under review by around a dozen congressional committees as he seeks to craft a federal cannabis reform bill that stands a chance of receiving bipartisan approval.
This will sound familiar to many cannabis reform advocates though. On the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20 last year, Schumer said he would push for a separate marijuana legalization proposal – the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act – to advance for a floor vote and make its way to the president’s desk by the time the next 4/20 comes around.
To compound marijuana activists’ frustration, Schumer, Wyden, and Booker have been united in their commitment to hold off on pursuing piecemeal cannabis reform efforts, such as the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, until more comprehensive legislation has passed. The Safe Banking Act, which would protect banks that service state-legal cannabusinesses from federal interference, has cleared the House six times in one form or another but has yet to receive a floor vote in the Senate.
Another potential route for cannabis banking reform is the America COMPETES Act, which House lawmakers furnished with provisions from the SAFE Banking Act. The Senate then moved to remove the House’s inclusion and it’s now under review by a bicameral conference committee. However, members of several committees from both chambers have indicated they are minded to re-insert the SAFE Banking Act’s provisions back into the final version of the bill before sending it to President Joe Biden.