NCIA Submits Comments on Comprehensive Cannabis Policy Reform Proposal
By Morgan Fox
September 1, 2021

NCIA Submits Comments on Comprehensive Cannabis Policy Reform Proposal

Critical analysis and recommendations from stakeholders developed in response to draft language of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act led by Senate Majority Leader


WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to a call for input on the draft language for a bill that would make cannabis legal and regulated at the federal level, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has submitted a detailed analysis and recommended improvements on behalf of the legal cannabis industry. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), submitted in July by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), would remove cannabis from the schedule of controlled substances, create a regulatory structure and federal guidelines for cannabis products and state-legal markets, and is intended to support restorative justice for the people and communities that have been disparately hurt by prohibition while ensuring fair opportunities in legal cannabis markets for small businesses and marginalized communities.

The full comments are available here and an executive summary can be viewed here.

As the nation’s oldest, largest, and most broadly representative cannabis trade association, NCIA was able to draw on the vast experience of its members to create recommendations that will help to further promote the ideas that should be included in comprehensive federal policy reform, such as descheduling, support for small businesses, social equity and restorative justice, sensible federal guidelines, fair taxation, and research. These comments were developed with significant feedback from NCIA’s Policy Council, industry expert committees, social equity scholarship recipients, and other member stakeholders from every sector of the industry.

“Ending nearly a century of disastrous prohibition policies is a monumental effort and one which should not be taken lightly,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of NCIA. “We appreciate Senate leadership for taking a big step toward that goal which a significant majority of Americans support. There is a lot of work left to be done and it is vital to include those most impacted by both prohibition and the proposed legislation in this process.”

The CAOA presents a thoughtful foundation for comprehensive cannabis policy reform that clearly illustrates the authors’ engagement with stakeholders during the drafting process. Many of the ideas expressed in the draft legislation hew closely to NCIA’s recommendations for an effective federal regulatory framework. The Senate supporters demonstrated their commitment to continued discussion and revision by requesting public comments on this language immediately after it was initially released.

“It’s been gratifying to see NCIA’s’s previous regulatory proposals reflected in the four corners of the CAOA,” said Khurshid Khoja, chair of NCIA’s Board, co-chair of its Policy Council, and founder and CEO of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel PC. “I’m even more pleased that the authors’ offices have given us the opportunity to further inform and shape this landmark bill with robust industry input collected from a broad array of NCIA stakeholders.”

Despite this promising step in the conversation on how to best deschedule cannabis, there are a number of issues presented in the draft that could undermine the stated intent of the legislation and its authors in the Senate, as well as pertinent policies that go unaddressed. In particular, there are serious concerns that the suggested tax structure and other financial rules will result in even more onerous financial burdens than those which currently exist under prohibition and which will fall disproportionately on small businesses. This would limit the opportunities created by legal cannabis markets and hamper efforts to support restorative justice and social equity in the cannabis industry at the state and federal level. A detailed analysis of the proposed tax structure by Whitney Economics is available here.

“Cannabis reform is a complex task, but one that is crucial to get right,” said Michael Cooper, co-chair of NCIA’s Policy Council and managing partner at MadisonJay Solutions LLC. “As the nation’s largest trade association for the cannabis industry, NCIA is submitting these comments and looks forward to continuing to work with the impending legislation’s sponsors to make this reform as effective and impactful as possible.”

NCIA is committed to ending prohibition and repairing the harms it has caused while creating a vibrant legal industry that can sustain hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs and become a major economic engine for America in the decades ahead. We are confident that congressional offices share this commitment with NCIA and trust they will seriously consider this feedback and that of our advocacy and industry allies.

Laws to make cannabis legal for adults have passed in 19 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of CNMI and Guam, and 36 states as well as several territories have comprehensive medical cannabis laws. The substance is legal in some form in 47 states.


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