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Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with colleagues Cory Booker (NJ) and Ron Wyden (OR), introduced a discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. The long-awaited introduction of this discussion draft invites input from other members of Congress, stakeholder organizations like ASA, and the public to weigh in on the bill’s contents and work to improve the measure before the final draft of the bill is introduced after September 1, 2021.
The bill includes many of the original tenants of the legislation serving as the backbone of the MORE Act, which was previously championed in the Senate by then California Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Booker. 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 (FDA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).
“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 (NIDA) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST),” said ASA Executive Director Debbie Churgai.
“It is critical that the regulatory assignments of all federal departments and agencies be reevaluated to remove harmful policy ramifications that fall on patients under agencies from the Veterans Administration (VA) to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).
“These missions need to be reorganized to facilitate a pathway for federally sanctioned cannabis medicine, and that needs to be done with a thoughtful approach that prioritizes patients. ASA looks forward to working with the sponsors of this discussion draft, along with other Hill offices and the Biden administration to ensure that no patient is left behind.”
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 in the bill.