On the heels of his home state ending pot prohibition, Sen. Chuck Schumer wants legalization to go national.
In an interview with Politico last week, the Senate Majority Leader said he is ready to bring a marijuana legalization bill to the senate floor—whether President Joe Biden is fully on board or not.
“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”
The Spread of Legalization in The United States
Schumer’s comments came the same week that his home state of New York legalized recreational pot use for adults 21 and older—the latest state to join a legalization trend that began in 2012, when Colorado and Washington passed measures ending prohibition on pot use. Since then, more than a dozen other states have followed suit, something Schumer said contributed to his own evolution on the matter. Despite that, marijuana remains illegal on the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act.
“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, “Well what changed?” Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states—Oregon and Colorado—wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer told Politico. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”
Barring a change of heart, Biden has not given any indication that he and Schumer are aligned on this issue. Throughout the campaign last year, Biden resisted calls to embrace legalization, instead offering up a more modest proposal to “decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level.” In an interview last year on The Breakfast Club, Biden said while it “makes no sense for people to go to jail” for pot, he wasn’t quite ready to go as far to support outright legalization.
“Because they’re trying to find out whether or not there is any impact on the use of marijuana, not in leading you to other drugs, but what it affects. Does it affect long term development of the brain and we should wait until the studies are done,” Biden said in the interview. “I think science matters.”
But whether Biden is ready to take that step, his Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate are. Schumer told Politico that he would introduce a bill after conferring with the Senate Banking Committee, and that the legalization proposal would possibly be a part of a larger, comprehensive reform package.
“A while back—I can’t remember the exact year—I was in Denver. I just started talking to people, not just elected officials, but just average folks,” Schumer said.