Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised swift action on legislation to remove cannabis from the nation’s list of controlled substances if Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s election, according to a report from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The Democrat from New York said in comments made last week that lawmakers would move to pass the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, a bill that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. The measure also provides support for small businesses and grant funding to support efforts to review and expunge past marijuana convictions at the state level.
“I think we’ll have a good chance to pass that bill,” Schumer said.
“I’m a big fighter for racial justice, and the marijuana laws have been one of the biggest examples of racial injustice, and so to change them makes sense,” he added. “And that fits in with all of the movement now to bring equality in policing, in economics, and in everything else. Our bill is, in a certain sense, at the nexus of racial justice, individual freedom, and states’ rights.”
Schumer made a similar promise to advance cannabis reform legislation in an interview in September.
“My commitment is that if I am leader [of the US Senate], I am going to do everything I can to put the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act on the floor of the Senate,” he said. “The odds are very high it will pass.”
Justin Strekal, the political director for NORML, commented on Schumer’s pledge to address cannabis reform if Democrats take control of the Senate.
“The stark contrast among Senate party leaders on the issue of reforming our failed marijuana laws could not be any more dramatic. On one side of the aisle, you have Republican Leader McConnell – who refuses to act on even ancillary reforms such as the SAFE Banking Act,” Strekal said in a statement last week. “On the other hand, you have Democratic Leader Schumer who now is eager to force the upper chamber to consider legislation ending the nation’s cruel experiment with marijuana criminalization. In short, the future of marijuana policy reform is on the ballot in every state with a Senate race.”
Democrats Also Promise Action In The House
Democrats in the House of Representatives have also committed to acting on cannabis legalization bills after the election. After originally promising a vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in September, House leaders delayed action on the legislation to focus on a new COVID-19 relief measure.
“Right now, the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said in a statement at the time. “Later this autumn, the House will pass the MORE Act with strong support as yet another crucial step toward making our justice system fair for all Americans.”
If passed, the MORE Act would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and allow the states to set their own cannabis regulation policies. The bill would also expunge convictions for many federal marijuana-related offenses and levy a 5% commercial cannabis tax which would be invested in communities that have borne the brunt of the harm caused by the failed War on Drugs.