WASHINGTON – The long-awaited Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) was finally introduced to the Senate Thursday after being unveiled to the industry by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) last year.
The CAOA would decriminalize cannabis on a federal level — a crucial step leading up to the federal legalization for which so many operators and consumers are holding out hope. The bill would also allow states to set comprehensive cannabis laws without operators experiencing constant worry over federal intervention.
This would-be dream-come-true has been a long time coming, as Schumer proposed the draft alongside Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) over a year ago. Many also believe the odds of it passing the Senate are slim, facing an uphill battle with little reward for cannabis.
“Although we see the long-awaited introduction of CAOA as another positive sign for eventual federal cannabis reform, the Democrat-proposed bill will have a tough time passing the Senate,” said Entourage Effect Capital Founder and Managing Partner Matt Hawkins.
“It is perhaps most important to take stock of its language, as we could see portions of CAOA added to future bills that have a better chance of passing. Democrats are likely to lose the House in November’s midterms, so we expect the party to fight extra hard to pass a cannabis bill before they lose the opportunity, especially given the current administration’s perceived shortcomings in progressing other federal priorities,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins might be right about the bill’s uphill battle, but even if the legislation doesn’t pass, it’s sure to spark more conversation around the need for cannabis reform throughout the country.
While Hawkins and company remain skeptical of the realization of CAOA, other experts view it as a major step in the right direction, and a precursor for more waves of legislative adjustments surrounding cannabis.
“For years, I have been advocating for cannabis policy reform at the federal level, and the filing of the CAOA was a massive step in the right direction for our movement. With over two-thirds of Americans supporting the federal legalization of recreational cannabis sales and over 37 states with medical cannabis programs, it appears as if our legislature is finally heeding the American public’s mandate to reform our archaic cannabis laws,” said cannabis lobbyist and attorney Brady Cobb.
“Having said that, any reform at the federal level will likely be incremental in nature, and we must remain vigilant to ensure that while banking and other business-related reforms may pass first, we must commit to social and restorative justice reforms as too many Americans, like my father, have been arrested, convicted and/or imprisoned as a result of our country’s ill-advised and punitive war on the cannabis plant.”
The industry will have to wait and see what happens with CAOA. Although its passage would enact a great deal of positive change for cannabis, which 69 percent of Americans support, including a majority of Republicans, it remains incredibly unclear which way the federal government will ultimately sway. Schumer is hopeful congressional leaders will be able to “get something done” related to cannabis legalization this year, even if that’s only a watered-down version of CAOA.