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Senate Democrats File Federal Legalization Bill, Push to Expand Organic Grow Program, More... (5/1/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1210)
Politics & Advocacy

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and allies have refiled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act and a leading certifier of organic, regenerative pot farms seeks to expand.

A marijuana legalization bill from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and allies was filed today. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Senate Democrats Introduce Bill to Federally Legalize Marijuana. Led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Democrats on Wednesday filed a marijuana legalization bill, the reintroduced Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). The measure would legalize marijuana federally by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The move comes just one day after news broke that the DEA is ready to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the CSA. While rescheduling would ease restrictions on marijuana research and remove financial obstacles to state-legal marijuana businesses, it would not end federal pot prohibition. This bill would.

At a Wednesday press conference announcing the bill, Schumer noted the DEA's rescheduling decision, calling it "a necessary step that is long overdue," but not sufficient.

"It's not all we need to do," he said. "It's time for Congress to wake up to the times and do its part by passing the cannabis reform that most Americans have wished for. It's past time for Congress to catch up with public opinion and to catch up with the science."

The bill was originally filed in July 2022 with five sponsors in all, but never went anywhere in committee. This time around, it is starting off with 13 sponsors.

The bill would shift responsibility for regulating marijuana from the DEA to the Food and Drug Administration, where a newly created Center for Cannabis Products would be charged with setting standards for labeling marijuana products. It would also increase funding for drug treatment and ban flavored cannabis vapes.

The illicit sale of marijuana would remain a federal crime, and the bill would create a grant program through the Department of Justice to help small police departments fight illicit marijuana growing and sales.

The bill would create a 5 percent excise tax for small and medium-sized producers that would gradually increase to 12.5 percent. For bigger pot businesses, the tax would begin at 10 percent and max out at 25 percent.

To address social equity concerns, the bill would create an Opportunity Trust Fund to reinvest in communities and people harmed by the war on drugs. There would be a Community Reinvestment Grant Program, and Equitable Licensing Grant Program, and a Cannabis Restorative Opportunity Program providing loans and technical assistance to disadvantaged people in legal marijuana states.

Now, let's see if this bill moves.

Leading Regenerative Organic Cannabis Certification Launches New "Made with Sun+Earth Flower" Program. Sun+Earth Certified, the leading nonprofit third-party certification for regenerative organic cannabis in the United States, has launched a new "Made with Sun+Earth Flower" program to support its certified farmers, most of whom are family farmers, struggling in an increasingly consolidated marketplace. Certified farmers will now be able to work with values-aligned manufacturers to place the familiar Sun+Earth seal on popular products like tinctures, concentrates, and vaporizer pens, in an effort to increase market share for regenerative organic cannabis farmers, while educating consumers on the source of their cannabis products.

The vast majority of cannabis products currently sold in the US present no on-package labeling that explains how the cannabis was sourced and grown, and specifically what pesticides or other chemical inputs were used in its production. The "Made with Sun+Earth Flower" program will provide consumers with the confidence that their products were sourced from cannabis grown organically, under the sun and in the soil, without toxic chemicals. Notably, in its 2019 Cannabis Industry Report, the market research group TrendSource found that over 53 percent of consumers in the US are willing to pay more for organic cannabis products.

"The 'Made with Sun+Earth Flower' program is an easy-to-use marketing tool to help our farmers collaborate with manufacturers, extractors, and processors who care about the quality of cannabis they use in their products," said Sun+Earth director Andrew Black. "By displaying our seal on products made with Sun+Earth Certified cannabis, we have an opportunity to inform and educate even more consumers about the healthy, Earth-friendly practices used by our farmers."

Sun+Earth was founded on Earth Day 2019 by cannabis industry leaders, experts, and advocates with a common commitment to the pillars of regenerative organic agriculture, farmer and farmworker protections, and community engagement. Currently, Sun+Earth has certified more than 60 cannabis farms in five states: California, Michigan, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

No chemical fertilizers or toxic pesticides are used to grow cannabis certified by Sun+Earth, whose standards go well beyond the practices set by the USDA Organic program. Industrial indoor cannabis production consumes high volumes of energy and uses chemical inputs, whereas Sun+Earth Certified cannabis is cultivated on outdoor farms that strengthen habitats and build living soil. The rigorous standards set by Sun+Earth encourage the planting of cannabis alongside food crops, and the strategic use of cover crops, composting, and reduced soil tillage. Such practices help sequester carbon from the atmosphere, thereby reducing a farm's carbon footprint.

"We are steadfastly committed to regenerative organic farming practices, which contribute to better health, more vital soil, and a smaller carbon footprint," said Vincent Deschamps, owner of 54 Green Acres Farm, a Sun+Earth Certified farm in Southern Oregon and part of the new program. "But it's difficult for small-scale farmers to compete with large industrial operations, whose cannabis products occupy a disproportionate share of dispensary shelf space," continued Deschamps. "We're excited for the 'Made with Sun+Earth Flower' program to highlight our important work and bring greater equity and fairness to the industry."

"The 'Made with Sun+Earth Flower' program is much-needed and will open doors for regenerative organic cannabis farmers who are struggling financially," said David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner's, the top-selling natural brand of soap in North America, and a long-time cannabis and organic advocate. "This new marketing program from Sun+Earth is an innovative way to level the playing field for family farmers trying to compete with large-scale, industrial cannabis producers who currently dominate the market."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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