Yesterday, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (“MFOA”). The MFOA is also co-sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Coming on the heels of the STATES Act, the MFOA is the latest–and hopefully a successful–attempt to put an end to America’s unjust and immoral stance on marijuana (show us the way Canada!). The MFOA, as it’s currently drafted, pulls no punches: Its stated purpose is “To decriminalize marijuana, and for other purposes.” It only gets better from there as other provisions are as follows:
- It officially removes “marihuana” (that’s how it’s spelled in the Controlled Substances Act) as a Schedule I drug of the CSA.
- It would create the Marijuana Opportunity Trust Fund (“Fund”) – think social equity programs but on a federal level. The Secretary of Treasury would transfer the greater of ten percent of all tax revenue generated by the cannabis industry or $10 million to the Fund. The amount transferred into the Fund would then be made available to small cannabis businesses owned by women, and by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. There’s no doubt that America’s “war on drugs” has been implemented by law enforcement to disproportionately affect people of color and the poor. Although the establishment of the Fund won’t be able to right that wrong, it’s a step in the right direction.
- It would authorize up to $250 million over five years for highway safety research and to help expedite the development of enhanced strategies and procedures to reliably determine the impairment of a driver under the influence of THC.
- It authorizes $500 million over five years for critical public health research to better understand the effects of THC on the brain and the efficacy of medicinal marijuana for specific ailments.
- It would allow the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to regulate advertisements and promotions in order to prohibit promotions to individuals 18 years of age and under.
- It authorizes up to $100 million for state and local governments to create expungement or sealing programs for those with prior marijuana convictions.
- It would still grant States the authority to prohibit marijuana if they decided they preferred to live in the dark ages.
The MFOA has a little bit in it for everyone and hopefully that will lead to its passage: The cannabis industry would be able to operate, and therefore bank, without fear of government intervention; Populations disproportionately impacted by the war on cannabis will have access to capital; Funds will be allocated to prevent impaired driving and promotions aimed at minors, and; States can still criminalize cannabis if that’s their cup of non-THC-infused tea. The MFOA still has a long way to go and who knows what the November midterms or how President Trump’s position on it will vacillate from week to week (or day to day) but let’s make sure to contact our federal legislators and tell them that we demand they support the MFOA.
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Author: Habib Bentaleb