June 27, 2018

Duckworth Helps Introduce Legislation to Decriminalize Marijuana at Federal Level


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) in introducing new legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act would allow states to continue to decide how they will treat marijuana possession by removing marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act, while preserving the Federal Government’s ability to prevent trafficking from states where marijuana is legal to states where it is not. The bill also makes new investments in public health and safety and preserves the federal government’s ability to regulate marijuana advertising - just as it does tobacco - so that advertisers cannot target children.

"Far too many Americans are currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses and they are disproportionally people of color, despite the fact that African Americans and Caucasians use marijuana at the same rates,” said Senator Duckworth. “For years, the Federal Government has permitted states to determine their own policies regarding marijuana, and we've seen those states' economies grow while justice and fairness have improved as well. I'm proud to join Senator Schumer in this effort.”

The Senators’ legislation is designed to help communities that have been disproportionally affected by our current marijuana laws. It would authorize grants to help individuals seal or expunge marijuana possession conviction records, and it creates a new funding stream to make it easier for women- and minority-owned businesses to enter the marijuana industry. The bill would also make new investments in research to better understand the effect of THC on both driving and public health – particularly in adolescents – and to determine the effectiveness of medical marijuana treatments.

“The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” said Senator Schumer. “The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans – especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use- the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy. This legislation is simply the right thing to do and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.”

A fact sheet on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act can be viewed here. The full text of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act can be viewed here. A section-by-section summary of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act can be found here.

Specifically, the legislation would:

Decriminalize Marijuana: The legislation would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by descheduling it, which means removing marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970;

Respect States’ Rights: The legislation would maintain federal law enforcement’s authority to prevent marijuana trafficking from states that have legalized marijuana to those that have not;

Level The Economic Playing Field: The legislation would establish dedicated funding streams to be administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for women and minority-owned marijuana businesses that would be determinant on a reasonable estimate of the total amount of revenue generated by the marijuana industry;

Ensure Public Safety: The legislation would authorize $250 million over five years for targeted investments in highway safety research to ensure federal agencies have the resources they need to assess the pitfalls of driving under the influence of THC and develop technology to reliably measure impairment;

Invest in Public Health: The legislation would invest $500 million across five years for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work in close coordination with the Director of National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to better understand the impact of marijuana, including the effects of THC on the human brain and the efficacy of marijuana as a treatment for specific ailments;

Protect Children: The legislation would maintain the Department of Treasury’s authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does tobacco advertising to ensure the marijuana businesses aren’t allowed to target children in their advertisements. The bill also allows the agency to impose penalties in the case of violations;

Incentive Sealing and Expungement programs: The legislation authorizes grant programs to encourage state and local governments to administer, adopt, or enhance expungement or sealing programs for marijuana possession convictions. The bill provides $100 million over five years to the DOJ to carry out this purpose.