Schumer Ready to Talk Cannabis Reform

Alongside his colleagues Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a draft bill titled: “Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act” (CAOA). As a draft, the bill invites input from other members of Congress, stakeholder organizations like ASA, and the public to make suggestions which would improve the efficacy of the bill before the final draft is introduced after September 1, 2021.

When she was a senator representing California, Kamala Harris was a champion of 2019’s MORE Act. CAOA includes a lot of the original provisions from the MORE Act. These include: 

  • A complete removal of cannabis from any of the schedules under the Controlled Substances Act, 
  • Authorizing criminal records expungements for past low-level cannabis-related offenses,
  • Imposing a tax on cannabis at retail and fund cannabis industry job training programs, and 
  • Allowing states to continue to reform their own cannabis laws.

A key improvement in the bill is the inclusion of language authorizing VA physicians to recommend medical cannabis to veterans, however, it is unclear if the bill directly addresses extension of insurance coverage for medical cannabis.

Another notable change in the legislation is the transfer of regulatory authority from the Drug Enforcement Agency to the Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. While this is an encouraging proposal, ASA is advocating for a complete review and reassignment of federal departments and agencies from DEA and National Institutes on Drug Abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

To ensure that no patient is left behind, ASA looks forward to working with Hill offices and the Biden administration to improve this draft. Stay tuned for updates on the bill as ASA finalizes review of the 163-page draft, and prepares to engage Senators on key priorities for patients, physicians and researchers on the bill. If you would like to support our work (like analyzing this proposed legislation), please make a donation to ASA today.