Leading Senate Democrats Vow to Prioritize Federal Cannabis Legalization
Three top Senate Democrats plan to pursue “comprehensive cannabis reform legislation” during the 117th session of Congress.
In a joint statement issued Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), said they would prioritize ending cannabis prohibition and work together to introduce new cannabis reform legislation in the coming weeks.
“The War on Drugs has been a war on people — particularly people of color,” they said. “Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country.”
Specific details about the forthcoming bill were scant, however the senators said it would “ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”
In an Instagram Live conversation with former NBA star and cannabis entrepreneur Al Harrington last week, Schumer teased elements of the new bill — including expungement and investment in minority communities — and indicated that it would incorporate elements of previous legalization efforts.
“It decriminalizes,” he said. “It lets states do whatever they want.”
In their statement, the senators added that “input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”
“Canopy Growth stands ready to work closely with Senate leadership to advance comprehensive reform that will deliver long overdue social justice and much needed economic opportunity to communities of color across the country,” said David Culver, vice president of global government relations at Canada’s Canopy Growth Corporation.
Recall that Canopy has an agreement to purchase New York’s Acreage Holdings upon the loosening of federal cannabis laws.
“We look forward to partnering with policymakers and other industry stakeholders to help develop legislation that will promote a thriving industry in the U.S. while, importantly, establishing a safe and responsible THC market nationwide,” Culver added.
All three senators have previously supported initiatives to decriminalize or deschedule cannabis. Both Booker and Wyden previously co-sponsored the Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment Act (MORE Act), which passed the House in December. Wyden also supported the STATES Act and recently talked about marijuana reform with The Source Weekly.
For his part, Schumer sponsored the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act.
The announcement, delivered on the first day of Black History Month, was well received by cannabis analysts and advocates alike.
U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said he was “very excited” that Schumer, Booker and Wyden were “prepared to move forward together on comprehensive cannabis legislation.”
“Last year, we moved heaven and earth to get a bill passed through the House with key criminal justice and restorative justice provisions, but Mitch McConnell blocked consideration,” he said via a statement. “Now, new Senate leadership is prepared to pick up the mantle.”
Blumenauer added that previous attempts to advance federal cannabis reform in the Senate got “stuck in McConnell’s legislative graveyard.”
NORML political director Justin Strekal echoed those sentiments, saying that “years of marijuana policy reform” was “neglected and mocked” by McConnell.
“It is heartening to see these Senate leaders working together to repeal the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana prohibition,” he said via a statement.
Financial analysts who monitor the cannabis sector also took a favorable view of the announcement.
“We believe this statement formalizes the prioritization of cannabis reform within the Senate, which has historically been the gatekeeper to advancing meaningful change,” wrote Stifel’s Andrew Partheniou.
For his part, Owen Bennett at Jeffries noted that overwhelming public support and bipartisanship could help get a bill to President Joe Biden’s desk now that Democrats have control of the Senate.
“From a sector valuation perspective, any legislation will also likely allow U.S. cannabis companies to uplist onto a major exchange, get full access to capital markets, and allow institutional money to invest freely, all things prevented to date due to legal status,” he wrote.
Indeed, Green Thumb Industries, one of the largest multistate cannabis operators in the country, filed an S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday indicating its intent to list on a U.S. exchange.
With cannabis legalization on the horizon, cannabis stocks rallied on Tuesday.
Shares of cannabis ETF MSOS, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange and is the only U.S.-listed fund to deliver exposure to U.S. multistate operators, were up 5.5%.
Meanwhile, shares of Curaleaf (OTCMKTS: CURLF), the largest cannabis company in the U.S., were up 4.5%. Vireo Health (OTCMKTS: VREOF) closed the day up 11.8% while shares of Green Thumb Industries (OTCMKTS: GTBIF) rose 5.8%
Canadian cannabis stocks also benefited from the news. Tilray (NASDAQ: TLRY), which is merging with Aphria (NASDAQ: APHA), closed the day up nearly 23% while Aphria ended up nearly 18%.