In what could be seen as a 420 gift to the cannabis community, Chuck Schumer announces plans to federally decriminalize marijuana. The Democratic senator from New York made his intentions known in an interview with Vice News on April 19.
Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, said he is now officially supporting legislation that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. The move is a change for Schumer. He has previously supported marijuana for medicinal use and the rights of states to set their own cannabis policy. But now he thinks that all uses of cannabis should no longer carry federal criminal penalties.
“Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” he said.
He also noted that current cannabis laws are too harsh.
“I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long,” he said.
De-scheduling And More
Schumer expects to introduce his new bill in the Senate sometime next week. The legislation includes several changes to federal cannabis policy, although the senator stopped short of calling the measure “legalization.”
First, the law would remove marijuana from the list of substances covered by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). That would effectively end federal prohibition and allow the states to create their own cannabis regulations.
The bill will also include funding to research the effects of cannabis as well as its ability to impair driving a motor vehicle. Tax money would also be used to encourage the creation of marijuana businesses owned by women and minorities.
Finally, Schumer’s bill maintains “federal authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does alcohol and tobacco.” The senator said that provision is an effort to prevent cannabis businesses from marketing to children.
Schumer Joins Other Democrats, New Yorkers
Schumer is now one of several Democrats in the Senate calling for a change in federal marijuana policy. Last year, Sen. Cory Booker from New Jersey introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the Senate. Rep. Barbara Lee of California joined Booker and sponsored the measure in the House of Representatives.
That bill would remove cannabis from the CSA, as well. It also contains provisions aimed at repairing some of the damage by the United States’ failed War on Drugs. The measure also includes language that would withhold federal funding from states that continue to criminalize marijuana and prosecute minorities disproportionately.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democrat from Vermont who has long been a proponent of de-scheduling cannabis, just announced his support for Booker’s bill, also on April 19.
Schumer is joining other prominent New Yorkers who have already expressed support for a change in cannabis policy. Cynthia Nixon, who is running for governor of New York, recently announced her desire to change cannabis laws in an effort to promote fairness.
“The simple truth is, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time. Isn’t it time we legalize it for everybody else?” she said in a campaign video.
One day later, Democratic incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo jumped on the bandwagon. Because Massachusetts already has legal cannabis and other nearby states like New Jersey are poised to do so, Cuomo said that “for all intents and purposes, it is going to be here anyway.”
Final Hit: Chuck Schumer Announces Plans To Federally Decriminalize Marijuana
If decriminalization succeeds, perhaps you’ll see Schumer at a future 420 party. Although he hasn’t smoked pot yet, he might be up for giving it a try, he told Vice.
“Maybe, I’m a little old, but who knows?” he said.