Politics are greening up this year in legislation. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 61% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis and an increasing amount of politicians are joining the fight to free cannabis from the prohibition of the federal government. On April 20th, a holiday celebrated by cannabis enthusiasts, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced his plan to introduce a bill that would decriminalize cannabis "from one end of the country to the other". This piece of legislation would remove cannabis from the list of scheduled substances. In 1970, Richard Nixon signed into law The Controlled Substance Act. This bill created five schedules or classifications in which substances would be placed under. The criteria for the categories consisted of potential for abuse, currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties. With the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the mid-nineties, research began to pour in showing great medical value for the cannabis plant.
Twenty years later more than half the states in the United States have created medical marijuana programs within their borders. Perhaps it’s the fact that it is election year that has politicians looking for votes and encouraging them to step up and voice their opinion on cannabis legalities. Included in Schumer’s bill is establishing funding for women and minority-owned cannabis businesses, increasing research on the public health impact of the substance, and allowing federal authority to maintain and regulate commercial advertising.
New York senator Kristin Gillibrand has joined the fight by co-sponsoring Cory Booker’s bill, The Marijuana Justice Act. Similar to Schumer's bill, this bill also asks to end federal prohibition on cannabis. The bill includes incentives for states to revise their outdated laws on cannabis and establishing a fund for communities that have been negatively affected by prohibition. Funds will be allocated to job training programs, educational opportunities, public libraries and community centers.
Senator Cory Gardner (R-Col) made news back in February when he vowed to block all appointments to the Department of Justice until Attorney General Jeff Sessions changes his stance on using the federal government to take down cannabis businesses in states that have legalized it. He succeeded in blocking 11 nominees from getting a Senate floor vote before President Trump made a promise to him earlier this month on April 15, that promised that the president will support congressional efforts to protect states that have legalized marijuana.
Together, Gardner, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) are drafting a bill that will prevent the federal government from interfering in state-controlled cannabis businesses. Gardner told Yahoo News this week, “Basically, this is a states' rights bill. This is a federalism bill that says if a state like Colorado decides to move forward on medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, CBDs ..., hemp, that that activity is going to be lawfully, legally carried out," This bill should help out some of the issues with banking that the industry faces, as banks are currently scared to deal with any cannabis businesses due to the federal government’s standpoint on the subject.
It is an exciting time for the cannabis industry as Senators team up to push the federal government to catch up with the times and stop threatening states rights. If our Senators are successful, patients of the medical marijuana programs can look forward to using their credit cards for purchase at dispensaries and the most exciting, insurance companies covering the costs.