Senate marijuana bill: Schumer, Democrats to introduce bill to federally decriminalize cannabis
- The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would federally decriminalize marijuana.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the legislation Wednesday.
- Thirty-seven states have already decriminalized marijuana, including 18 that have completely legalized the substance.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to introduce legislation that would decriminalize marijuana on a federal level.
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a draft bill by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Schumer would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, allowing pot to be regulated and taxed.
Thirty-seven states have already decriminalized the substance, and 18 of those states have fully legalized it. Most Americans support the legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use.
Schumer's push to decriminalize the substance on a federal level marks how far the conversation on criminal justice reform has come.
"This is monumental," Schumer said Wednesday in a news conference announcing the legislation. "At long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs."
The legislation would not only decriminalize marijuana but also expunge nonviolent marijuana-related arrests and convictions from federal records.
It also would allocate new tax revenue, which would come from marijuana sales, to pay for restorative justice programs as ways to address the consequences the war on drugs had on communities, according to the draft bill.
“By ending the failed federal prohibition of cannabis the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act will ensure that Americans especially Black and Brown Americans no longer have to fear arrest or be barred from public housing or federal financial aid for higher education for using cannabis in states where it's legal,” a release accompanying the bill said.
Under the bill, the marijuana industry would then follow federal rules and guidelines; however, states would still have control over their own marijuana laws. The measure also would allow businesses, for the first time, the freedom to sell marijuana without the risk of federal punishment and to have access to financial services like bank accounts and loans.
“We legalized adult use in 2014. And oh, my goodness, the skeptics said that Western civilization was going to pretty much end,” Wyden told NBC's "Today" show in an interview that ran Wednesday. “What we have seen, in terms of the actual facts, is we generated more than six times the predicted revenue.”
Sixty percent of Americans say marijuana should be legalized for recreational and medical use, while 31% say only medical use should be legalized, according to a survey by Pew Research Center from April 5 to April 11. Of that same survey, only 8% of respondents said marijuana should not be legal.
Despite the overwhelming number of Americans who support legalizing the substance, Schumer’s bill is unlikely to make it past the Senate floor.
In the evenly divided Senate, Schumer would need the support of at least 10 Republican senators to avoid the filibuster and get it to a vote, which is highly unlikely. Republicans have opposed federal measures to decriminalize marijuana.
Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., have said they don’t support any federal marijuana reform, regardless of what their constituents voted for. Voters in Daines and Rounds’ states voted to legalize marijuana.
Another obstacle: President Joe Biden hasn’t voiced his support for the legislation.
“More and more people across the political spectrum want it,” Schumer said. “And so, it's going to roll. It's going to roll.”