The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)
On Thursday, July 21, 2022, Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chair Wyden (D-OR), and Senator Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), comprehensive legislation that would end the federal prohibition on cannabis by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empowering states to implement their own cannabis laws. It would also expunge records of people with low-level cannabis convictions and raise money to provide capital to entrepreneurs in the industry. The bill is not expected to get the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate and President Biden has said he does not support cannabis legalization. Per Sen. Schumer’s Office, “the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act:
- Protects public health by establishing strong cannabis health and safety standards under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, mandating that states keep cannabis out of the hands of those under 21, ensuring cannabis producers are licensed and that their products are consistently labeled, and requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) to provide recommendations and opinions regarding the medical use of cannabis by VA and IHS patients.
- Protects public safety by implementing robust anti-diversion rules, including a track-and-trace system, adopting quantitative limitations on retail purchases to combat illicit market cannabis production and distribution, establishing grants to assist small law enforcement agencies in hiring and training officers, and establishing a new effort at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to combat drugged driving and multi-substance impairment.
- Prioritizes restorative and economic justice by automatically expunging federal cannabis convictions and encouraging states to do the same, breaking down barriers to the cannabis industry and expanding access to loans and capital for entrepreneurs harmed by the failed War on Drugs, and ending discrimination in provision of federal benefits -- like federal housing or federal student loans -- on the basis of cannabis use.
- Regulates and taxes cannabis by transferring federal jurisdiction over cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Agency to the FDA and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) within the Treasury Department, and implementing a regulatory regime similar to alcohol and tobacco, while recognizing the unique nature of cannabis products. It also eliminates the tax code’s restriction on cannabis businesses claiming deductions for businesses expenses and implements an excise tax on cannabis products.
- Encourages cannabis research by requiring more federal research into impacts of cannabis on health and public safety, establishing clinical trials through the VA to study the effects of medical cannabis on the health outcomes of veterans, compiling industry-related data and trends, and establishing grants to build up cannabis research capacity at institutions of higher education, with particular focus on minority-serving institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- Strengthens workers' rights by removing unnecessary federal employee pre-employment and random drug testing for cannabis, while preserving appropriate drug testing for certain sensitive categories of employees where continued testing is determined necessary, including national security, law enforcement, and commercial transportation; and ensuring worker protections for those employed in the cannabis industry.”