Chuck Schumer raised eyebrows last year when the 71-year-old U.S. Senate Majority Leader pledged federal action to take cannabis off the DEA’s list of Schedule 1 drugs. The plant has been outlawed by the U.S. government since the 1930s, after all.
Advocates became increasingly optimistic when Democrats secured both houses of Congress and the White House in the November 2020 presidential election, seemingly paving the way for Schumer to get his wish.
But the date Schumer first offered as a deadline for ending prohibition, April 20, 2022, is now just a few days away. And unfortunately, the Democrat leader has yet to make any meaningful progress in fulfilling his pledge.
Schumer over the weekend said he and fellow Democrat U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker needed “more time” to rework the bill before filing it. Instead of this month, Schumer in a release said his marijuana proposal will now launch before Congress’ August recess.
Schumer first revealed plans for the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA) last year, but most Republican Senators in addition to several Democrats still oppose declassifying the plant.
Among cannabis-related issues addressed in the bill, the CAOA aims to eliminate marijuana drug testing requirements for federal employees, except those working in transportation or who regularly operate machinery. It also would ensure legal and worker protections for Americans employed in the cannabis industry. Finally, the CAOA would offer additional funding to law enforcement agencies to help crack down on illegal dealers attempting to exploit new legal markets by operating out of compliance with state and federal law.
“CAOA will not only remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, but also help repair our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” Schumer said.
The decision to postpone the CAOA comes less than a month after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a separate marijuana legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, for the second time. Similar to when it was first passed in 2020, the MORE Act is not expected to garner enough votes to advance through the Senate.
A Republican-sponsored House Bill, introduced by Rep. Nancy Mace as an alternative to the liberal Democrat-led cannabis proposals, could receive a committee hearing by the end of the month.