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Senate Democrats pave way for cannabis reform

Proposal would end US federal prohibition, give health and safety oversight to the FDA

by Britt E. Erickson
July 22, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 27


Cannabis plants growing indoors under blue lights.
Credit: Shutterstock
Senate leaders are seeking comments on draft legislation that would end federal prohibition of cannabis in the US.

The US is one step closer to ending federal cannabis prohibition, but senate Democrats need to garner more support from Republicans before such reform becomes reality. To get the discussions started, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), released a draft version of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act on July 14.

The proposed legislation “would help put an end to the unfair targeting and treatment of communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances,” Schumer told reporters during a press conference. Individual states would get to decide whether to legalize cannabis in their jurisdiction.

The draft legislation would also delegate health and safety oversight of cannabis to the US Food and Drug Administration, which would establish a new center dedicated to regulating cannabis products. The center would be responsible for setting national standards related to product quality, good manufacturing practices, ingredient labeling, and directions for use.

The proposal also provides a legal pathway to market cannabidiol (CBD) as a dietary supplement. The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services would be tasked with setting a recommended daily limit of CBD.

The cannabis industry welcomes the proposal. “This is the first time that the leadership of the upper chamber has championed a bill to end federal cannabis prohibition, and the fact that it is being done in such a thoughtful and proactive manner, engages stakeholders, and includes robust social justice and regulatory language is revolutionary,” Aaron Smith, cofounder and CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association, says in a statement. “This draft legislation is a great vehicle to jumpstart these conversations,” he says.

The trio of senators is seeking comments on the proposal until Sept. 1, after which they intend to formally introduce the bill.



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