The historic move signals the possibility of broader marijuana reform, something cannabis activists have been seeking for a long time and the majority of U.S. voters support.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of the co-sponsors of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which would decriminalize and deschedule cannabis on the federal level and promote social equity, praised the news.
“President Biden’s executive order is transformative for the lives of thousands of people and families harmed by our broken cannabis laws,” Booker stated. “This is a huge step forward toward a more just criminal justice system and more rational drug policy.
“Now it’s time for Congress and states to put an end to our failed policies by legalizing and appropriately regulating cannabis, taxing cannabis, reinvesting proceeds in communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs, and expunging criminal records for nonviolent drug offenses.”
A year ago, Booker pushed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to use its power under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 (CSA) to commence the procedure of removing cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 drugs.
Then again, in July 2022, Booker urged the Biden Administration to use its power to remove cannabis and issue pardons to all individuals convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.
Is Federal Marijuana Legalization The Next Step?
Even though many industry experts doubt that federal cannabis legalization will come about quickly, they believe that at least one piece of legislation has the potential to pass the Senate soon. Sponsors of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), recently discussed the urgency of cannabis reform this session, reiterating the public safety imperative of providing the industry access to the traditional financial system.
The banking reform bill, which the House passed for the sixth time in July as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, has never been voted on in the Senate.
Cantor’s Zuanic recently met with lawmakers in the nation’s capital and said congressional leaders are ready to pass banking legislation for the cannabis industry in the upcoming elections.
He noted that the passage of “SAFE Plus” is likely during the Congressional lame-duck period between the November midterms and the swearing-in of the new Congress in January 2023.
The SAFE Banking Plus Act is an updated version of a bill that contains provisions to protect financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses. It also contains some equity components.
“We think that talk of a SAFE Plus (bill) is something that should be taken seriously,” Zuanic told investors in a Zoom call. “It’s not just a jingle. It’s not a pipe dream. It’s something that’s ongoing. There are discussions at high levels in the Senate between co-sponsors of the SAFE Banking bill on the Republican side with Senate leadership.”
In the end, Biden’s pardons definitely give hope to those who wish to see SAFE Plus pass the Senate and create a positive and more functional environment for the booming cannabis industry.
This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.