New Senate Proposal To Federally Legalize Yet Heavily Regulate Cannabis


New legislation proposes to reschedule cannabis and regulate it with a half dozen federal agencies.

By Captain Semantics

Photo by Avery Meeker

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) filed a new bill to federally legalize marijuana last Thursday. The legislation would reclassify cannabis and eliminate it from the Controlled Substances Act. The plant would later be regulated by various health and safety agencies within the federal government. 

The “Substance Regulation and Safety Act ” proposes to deschedule cannabis and mandates the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish guidelines that regulate cannabis similarly to alcohol and tobacco. The bill would also create a federally funded research institute to “evaluate the risks and benefits of cannabis.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture would manage quality control standards as it does with other plants within the food supply. The bill also plans to address an issue confounding many law enforcement agencies within legal marijuana states: Is driving ‘high’ safe? The Department of Transportation would be tasked with understanding the effects of such impaired driving as well as methods for law enforcement to detect how ‘high’ someone is. Many of these regulations could seem cumbersome to established manufacturers in legal states who otherwise are not overseen federal agencies.

Highlights of the bill include an operative expungement of previous cannabis convictions. The bills describes the legal amnesty provisions “are retroactive and shall apply to any offense committed, case pending, or conviction entered, and, in the case of a juvenile, any offense committed, case pending, or adjudication of juvenile delinquency entered, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act.” 

Importantly, the bill contains racial justice provisions lacking in many previous legalization efforts. The legislation mandates the Department of Health and Human Services “consult with civil rights stakeholders” to ascertain “whether cannabis abuse prevention strategies and policies are likely to have racially disparate impacts.” There is a 100 days deadline post-enactment for these consultations to happen.

Paradoxically, the same Department of Transportation that would be tasked with determining criminality of impaired drivers would also determine whether its policy “is likely to contribute to racially disparate impacts in the enforcement of traffic safety laws.”

Yet cannabis advocates are speaking highly of the bill: “It’s terrific to see Senator Smith engage so substantively in the cannabis policy reform debate,” political director of NORML Justin Streka told Marijuana Moment. “We at NORML look forward to propelling many aspects of the new legislation into the broader conversation on the future of federal regulations in regards to a post-prohibition America.”

Read the bill below.


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