Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Tuesday that he and colleagues are in the process of reaching out to Republican senators to “see what they want” included in a bill to federally legalize marijuana he’s planning to introduce later this month.
The leader was pressed during a briefing with reporters about the fact that he’s been discussing plans to file legalization legislation for more than a year. The new comments come less than a week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a separate legalization bill from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
“We hope to [file the bill] towards the end of April,” Schumer said, adding that he, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) “are talking about it and, in fact, we’re trying to reach out” to other lawmakers about the forthcoming bill.
“I’ve reached out already to a few Republicans to see what they want,” he said.
Schumer said in February that the plan was to introduce the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA) in April. He and his colleagues first unveiled the legislation in draft form for public comment last year.
The leader also recently said in a meeting with activists that he expects committee hearings on the proposal shortly after it’s finally filed.
In February, Schumer and his cannabis co-sponsors also circulated a letter asking fellow lawmakers to weigh in on the provisions of the bill.
It’s unclear what kind of GOP input on the bill the senator might be inclined to incorporate to build bipartisan support for the reform measure, but the House bill that passed last week contains similar provisions to the draft CAOA and received just three Republican votes in support.
The senators’ proposal as released in draft form last year would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge prior convictions, allow people to petition for resentencing, maintain the authority of states to set their own marijuana policies and remove collateral consequences like immigration-related penalties for people who’ve been criminalized over the plant.
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The bill would also impose a federal tax on marijuana products and put some of that revenue toward grant programs meant to support people from communities most impacted by prohibition who want to participate in the industry.
Further, the legislation would transfer regulatory authority over cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
The three senators accepted public comments on the draft to help inform a revised bill for introduction, now expected this month.
Schumer emphasized late last year that he wants to keep the “big boys” out of the marijuana industry in favor of creating opportunities for smaller operators when cannabis is federally legalized, and he said that the upcoming bill would accomplish that.
He’s also stressed that his reform measure will take specific steps to restrict the ability of large alcohol and tobacco companies to overtake the industry.
Also in Congress, a separate bill to tax and regulate marijuana is also in play this session. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is sponsoring that legislation, and she said in a recent interview that she’s received assurances from Democratic leaders that her States Reform Act will receive a hearing following the MORE Act floor vote.
Meanwhile, on the same day that it was announced that the MORE Act would be heading to the floor again, the Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan bill meant to promote research into marijuana, in part by streamlining the application process for researchers who want to study the plant and to encourage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop cannabis-derived medicines.
The House on Monday approved a separate, bipartisan marijuana research bill that’s meant to streamline studies into cannabis, in part by allowing scientists to access products from state-legal dispensaries.
Congressional researchers separately released a report recently that details the challenges posed by ongoing federal prohibition and the options that lawmakers have available to address them.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that President Joe Biden agrees that “our current marijuana laws are not working,” but she declined to directly address whether the president supports House-passed Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.