University of the District of Columbia Law Review


There has been much recent discussion surrounding cannabis use with some researchers supporting the use of medical marijuana, some investors relishing in the recently booming cannabis and CBD industry, and some states decriminalizing marijuana and even harsh controlled substances. As it appears, at least some public opinion is changing regarding marijuana, but the law has not effectively caught up to that change. Bias in the criminal justice system has led to the over-policing of, higher conviction rates, and harsher sentences for minorities. Thus, the decriminalization of marijuana alone does not remedy the grave disproportionate negative effects on populations of color as a result of marijuana convictions. Recognizing this, Senators Cory Booker, Ron Wyden, and Chuck Schumer have introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (“CAOA”) aimed to “end the decades of harm inflicted on communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empowering states to implement their own cannabis laws.”1 However, the proposed law will still recognize state law where possession, production, and distribution is concerned, which is significant because marijuana has not been decriminalized in all fifty United States. Accordingly, the bill, if passed, may have little to no effect on the tens of thousands currently incarcerated nationwide in state correctional facilities for marijuana related offenses. Additionally, excluded from relief by the proposed bill would be the immeasurable amount of people dealing with the indirect collateral consequences of marijuana related charges. This article will address what we learned from the Prohibition Era and the failed War on Drugs; cite the societal importance of remedying the collateral consequences to minority communities stemming from marijuana convictions; and review the marketplace successes in the newly established cannabis industry. Most significantly, this article will provide a robust discussion of the successes and failures of the CAOA’s amelioratory relief efforts; an analysis of the CAOA’s effect, if passed, on state-level marijuana convictions; and most critically, provide a guide for practical application by state governments to implement the CAOA and take advantage of its benefits.

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