Advocates Applaud Senate Reintroduction of Most Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation to Date, Demonstrating Momentum for Federal Decriminalization

May 1, 2024
Media Contact

Maggie Hart, [email protected]

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) reintroduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), joined by fifteen other original cosponsors. The CAOA would put an end to decades of failed federal marijuana prohibition, reinvest in communities that have been harmed by marijuana criminalization, and resentence and expunge federal marijuana convictions.

The reintroduction comes just one day after the Associated Press reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive class, to a Schedule III drug, a less restrictive class. Under this proposed shift, marijuana criminalization would continue at the federal level and most penalties, including those for simple possession, would remain in place. The CAOA, however, would fully decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and begin to repair the harms that federal marijuana prohibition and enforcement have caused. Equity advocates, criminal justice reform leaders, and health experts are embracing the CAOA as the most comprehensive marijuana reform legislation to date.

Original co-sponsors of the legislation include Sens. Senators Murray (D-WA), Merkley (D-OR), Gillibrand (D-NY), Warren (D-MA), Markey (D-MA), Bennet (D-CO), Peters (D-MI), Smith (D-MN), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Luján (D-NM), Padilla (D-CA), Welch (D-VT), Warnock (D-GA), Fetterman (D-PA), and Butler (D-CA).

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would:

“We are elated to see the CAOA reintroduced with strong support from the Senate. This bill would finally end the cruelty of marijuana prohibition and begin to restore communities that have been harmed by marijuana criminalization. The CAOA presents a historic opportunity for our legislators to finally align federal law with public opinion, which overwhelmingly supports marijuana legalization. We urge Senators to support this bill and cosponsor the legislation,” said Maritza Perez Medina, Director of the Office of Federal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

Perez Medina continued: “For over 50 years, our communities have been locked up and locked out of opportunities as a result of punitive and racially-motivated marijuana enforcement. The leadership displayed today by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Sens. Booker and Wyden, in introducing this bill, sends a clear message that those days are numbered. Building off the House-passed MORE Act, the CAOA would not only deschedule marijuana at the federal level, but it also begins to repair the extensive economic and societal tolls that have been caused by prohibition. This legislation, the most comprehensive to-date, is the kind of justice, opportunity and reinvestment our communities deserve.”

Akua Amaning, Director for Criminal Justice Reform, Center for American Progress:

“Millions of people experience the devastating consequences of America’s war on drugs and its harms have been most felt by people of color and other marginalized communities. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) would not only decriminalize marijuana at the federal level but would also provide an opportunity to end these harms through its expungement and resentencing provisions. The CAOA’s equity measures support reinvestment and job opportunities for communities most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. We urge the Senate to quickly pass the CAOA.”

Kyle O’Dowd, Deputy Director, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers:

“As criminal defense lawyers, we see every day how marijuana criminalization disproportionately harms poor people and communities of color and wastes resources. It’s time to stop punishing and stigmatizing people for a substance that a significant majority of Americans believe should be legal. The CAOA is a step towards justice for individuals and communities harmed by misguided drug policies. We thank the bill’s sponsors and urge swift passage.”

Byron Adinoff MD, Addiction Psychiatrist and Board President of Doctors for Drug Policy Reform:

“Only by removing cannabis from the CSA entirely (descheduling) will the federal government be able to end cannabis criminalization and begin to address cannabis as a public health issue through its regulation, thereby protecting consumer and public safety and facilitating access to medical cannabis for those who need it most. For these reasons, Doctors for Drug Policy Reform supports the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.”

Eric Goepel, Founder and CEO, Veterans Cannabis Coalition:

“Every year we delay on ending federal cannabis prohibition and delivering on the promise of universal access to a critical medicine means another 10,000 preventable veteran deaths from suicide and overdose. There is a life-and-death urgency in passing comprehensive cannabis reform legislation like CAOA and the time is now to put in the work to see it passed.”

Kaliko Castille, Better Opportunity to Win Legalization (BOWL):

“Better Opportunity to Win Legalization appreciates Majority Leader Schumer as well as Senator Booker and Senator Wyden’s team for keeping this conversation top of mind in the U.S. Senate. With the likelihood of Schedule III becoming more real every day, it’s imperative that Congress step up to the plate and swing for the fences with a comprehensive bill that will once and for all end federal marijuana prohibition and ensure that no one is locked up for using cannabis. We look forward to working with Senate offices to build the momentum needed to eventually get a bill to the President’s desk.”

Eric Foster, National Policy Director for Cannabis & Hemp Policy, Minorities for Medical Marijuana: “The CAO Act is the most comprehensive legislation for the legalization of cannabis and establishing a fulsome regulatory regime for medical application of cannabis, the commercial business structure, individual adult use liberties, immigration related issues, tribal sovereignty on cannabis and economic inclusion and opportunity for diverse communities. We at M4MM endorse this as the right step and the foundation that can be built upon.”


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive class, to a Schedule III drug, a less restrictive class. Under this proposed shift, marijuana criminalization would continue at the federal level. This news followed a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendation to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule III drug, affirming that marijuana has medical value and a low likelihood of abuse. However, a recent Congressional report reveals a clear disconnect between the intent behind rescheduling and its impacts on Americans who use marijuana or work in marijuana-related businesses, stating that anything short of descheduling would maintain federal marijuana criminalization and most of the harms associated with it.

The harms of marijuana criminalization reach beyond those who use it or work in the industry, adversely impacting their loved ones and communities through family separation from incarceration and deportation, as well as the denial of economic opportunities. Despite similar rates of usage, marijuana arrests have overwhelmingly targeted communities of color, which has concentrated the negative impacts of criminalization among Black, Brown, and Indigenous populations.

Considering this, Congressional support for descheduling – instead of rescheduling – is growing. Organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and members of the Marijuana Justice Coalition are urging members of Congress to support the CAOA as the best path to fully decriminalize and legalize marijuana and begin to repair the harms caused by criminalization.

More information on marijuana scheduling is available here. 

The text of the bill can be found here.




About the Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the U.S. working to end the drug war, repair its harms, and build a non-punitive, equitable, and regulated drug market. We envision a world that embraces the full humanity of people, regardless of their relationship to drugs. We advocate that the regulation of drugs be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights. In collaboration with other movements and at every policy level, we change laws, advance justice, and save lives. Learn more at


About the Marijuana Justice Coalition

The Marijuana Justice Coalition is a broad coalition of national advocacy organizations, convened by the Drug Policy Alliance, who have joined forces to advocate for federal marijuana reform through a racial and economic justice lens. In the 116th Congress, the Marijuana Justice Coalition led the historic passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) in the House. This marked the first time a chamber of Congress voted to deschedule marijuana. In the 117th Congress, the Coalition was once again successful in passing the MORE Act (H.R. 3617) in the House, marking the first time a descheduling bill was passed in a non-lame duck session of Congress. The Coalition continues to work toward the successful passage of a comprehensive marijuana bill in Congress that legalizes and decriminalizes marijuana and centers the people most impacted by prohibition. This work includes collaborating with the Senate on the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which builds upon the social justice provisions of the MORE Act.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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