As U.S. Senate leaders discuss a draft of a bill to legalize marijuana on a federal level, giants in the cannabis industry are preparing for what could be coming next.
If passed, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge federal convictions for nonviolent marijuana offenses and establish a way to tax marijuana.
It would also give cannabis pharmaceutical companies, like the Canadian Tilray, a chance to shine in the U.S.
“I see over the next 18-to-24 months that cannabis in some format will have legalization,” Tilray CEO Irwin Simon told Yahoo Finance. "Trust me: When legalization does happen, we will be ready... to be a part of it."
Currently, 18 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, while thirty-seven states have legalized medical marijuana.
"My playbook here is to create the largest cannabis company that's built around consumer brands," Simon said. "And those brands will be built around adult use, will be built around medical cannabis, [and] will be built around drinks, edibles, and food."
As for President Joe Biden, he supports decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level, reclassifying it as a Schedule II drug for further study, and removing prior criminal records. He also approves of legalizing medicinal marijuana while giving states the authority to choose whether they will allow it recreationally, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during an April press briefing.
Despite these hopeful views of marijuana legalization in the near future, the passage of the bill through the Senate might pose a few challenges.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a sponsor of the bill, will need to assemble 60 votes. This means he will need the support of at least 10 Republicans given the Senate is at a 50-50 split.
According to the New York Times, libertarian-leaning Republicans have generally supported ending the prohibition of marijuana. However, party leaders are likely to oppose the Democrats’ plan, particularly with its emphasis on restorative justice and government intervention in the cannabis industry.
“It’s not just an idea whose time has come; it’s long overdue,” Schumer said at a news conference in the Capitol. “We have all seen the agony of a young person arrested with a small amount of marijuana in his or her pocket. And because of the historical over-criminalization of marijuana, they have a very severe criminal record they have to live with their whole lives.