The Road to a Marijuana Legalization Bill Is Uphill, But Senator Cory Booker Is Determined to Persevere

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., unveiled a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act on July 14. Minutes later, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about President Joe Biden’s position on legalization. “Nothing has changed,” she said of the president’s opposition.
Written by 
Joan Oleck, Cannabis Journalist.
|Last Updated:

The proposed legislation, referred to as CAOA, would legalize marijuana (hemp already being legal). But as Psaki hinted at, the eventual legislation looks to be on thin ice in terms of securing a presidential signature from Biden.

The Senate, where the measure would require 60 votes, including Republican votes – will also be a hard sell.

But never mind all that: Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is one of Schumer’s two co-sponsors on CAOA (along with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon ) says he will still actively lobby the White House, reported Marijuana Moment reported this week. “Now that a discussion draft of our legislation has been released, we will start having conversations with the White House to get them behind our proposal,” Booker tweeted on July 23.

People tweeting back seemed primarily concerned with the problem of banking marijuana revenues, and taxes: “:How do you plan on achieving bipartisan support on total reform without taking the first step and offer[ing] safe banking?” one tweet asked.

Booker confidently tweeted back. “Our bill would de-schedule marijuana, which solves the banking issue,” he wrote. “Additionally, our legislation would allow small marijuana producers with less than $20 million in sales annually to get a 50 percent reduction in their tax rate, via a tax credit.”

That may sound good to legalization supporters, but there’s still the challenge of convincing Biden, who was the most moderate Democrat in the 2020 primary when asked about legalization. The president has spoken in favor of states legalizing themselves, and of decriminalization and records expungement. But broad federal reform, for Biden, seems to be a nonstarter.

One possible explanation comes from the Brookings Institution, which in a May essay pointed to Biden’s age. “As a member of the Silent Generation (Americans born between 1925 and 1944), Mr. Biden belongs to an age cohort that is the most opposed to cannabis reform in the American electorate,” Brookings wrote.

Accordingly, the president seems out of step with the 67 percent of Americans who do support marijuana legalization and the 78 percent of Democrats who say the same, Pew Research surveys have revealed.

One big reason people cite for supporting Schumer’s and others’ goal of justice for young men of color disproportionately targeted by police during the height of marijuana arrests. “Our bill would take tax revenue generated from the sale of marijuana and reinvest that money into communities most impacted by the War on Drugs,” Booker, using the hashtag #MarijuanaJustice, tweeted to one questioner.

Then there’s Vice President Kamala Harris. As a contender in the Democratic presidential primary, Harris openly supported legalization, particularly because of the justice issue. Since taking office, however, the VP has said little if anything on the topic — deferring to her boss, no doubt.

Joan Oleck
Joan Oleck
Cannabis Journalist
Joan Oleck is a freelance writer currently specializing in the cannabis industry and cannabis tech. She has been an editor and reporter on staff for such publications as, Business Week, Newsday and The Detroit News. She won the Jesse Neal Award for best feature series in a trade publication, Restaurant Business, and a GLAAD Award for a Salon story about discrimination in adoption against single and gay parents

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