by: Javier Hasse, Benzinga Staff Writer
April is shaping up to be a great month for marijuana. Last week, President Donald Trump announced the federal government would not interfere with states’ rights to decide their cannabis laws and former Speaker of the House John Boehner joined the board of directors of New York-based marijuana company Acreage Holdings.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday evening he plans to introduce a bill to decriminalize cannabis on a federal level. While decriminalization is not the same as full legalization, it is certainly a step in that direction. What decriminalization implies is that, while weed would remain illegal in the eyes of the federal government, consumers of state-legal cannabis businesses would no longer be prosecuted.
According to reports by Vice News, the bill will be introduced in the Senate next week and will, among other things, seek to remove the herb from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s controlled substance list. Cannabis would be de-scheduled and treated like medication or a recreational substance for adults, rather than like a scheduled substance like heroin or cocaine.
In addition, Schumer’s bill would include provisions for funding minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses; research; and authority for the federal government to regulate advertising.
Benzinga reached out to Democratic Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who’s been a vocal advocate of decriminalization for years.
“The war on cannabis costs U.S. taxpayers $3.6 billion per year. 46 percent of all drug arrests are for simple cannabis possession, which only benefits the private for-profit prison system,” Smith said Friday. “I have championed cannabis decriminalization at the state level, but it’s past time for Congress to move on this important issue.”
Larisa Bolivar is co-founder and managing partner at TCMS Global and a longtime cannabis advocate and entrepreneur.
“Decriminalizing cannabis is long overdue,” Bolivar told Benzinga.
“There is zero evidence that cannabis is toxic. It is recorded in codexes thousands of years old as having medicinal value. It will also be better for the cannabis market to enable business development on all aspects of cannabis' benefits for the economy and consumer.”
The key aspect of Schumer's bill is that it would de-schedule — rather than re-schedule — cannabis, said Leslie Bocskor, an investment banker and the president of cannabis advisory firm Electrum Partners.
"De-scheduling cannabis is the real goal, in my opinion. This is the only thing that makes sense to me: to regulate cannabis like we regulate tobacco and alcohol,” Bocskor told Benzinga. “After all, cannabis is just a plant and, as such, it should be left up to the states to regulate how they want to deal with it.
When cannabis is refined into specific medicines that make specific claims, those medicines should be in the controlled substances list "in some fashion," the Electrum Partners president said.
"It's nice to see someone like Schumer "wake up," Bocskor said.
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