Senators introduce measure for federal decriminalization of marijuana

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced legislation Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, vowing to use his clout as majority leader toward reversing policies and laws that he says have caused significant harm to the lives of thousands of Americans.

The draft bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would remove federal penalties associated with cannabis, expunge nonviolent federal cannabis-related criminal records and begin regulating and taxing the drug.

“This is monumental, because, at long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs,” Schumer said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “I was the first Democratic leader to come out for the legalization of marijuana.”

Public support for legalizing marijuana is high, with 91% of Americans saying marijuana should be legal in some form, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Even Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices, recently wrote that federal laws against marijuana use or cultivation may no longer make sense.

“A prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the Federal Government’s piecemeal approach,” he wrote in June.

And while 18 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have made adult recreational use of small amounts of marijuana legal, people’s changing opinions about the drug have yet to translate into majority support in Congress.

While a similar bill to decriminalize marijuana passed the Democratic-controlled House last December with bipartisan support, no Republican has expressed backing for such a move in the Senate.

Schumer acknowledged that reality, telling reporters that he didn’t have the votes but hoped that the draft legislation would attract proponents.

“For decades, young men and young women, disproportionately young Black and Hispanic men and women, have been arrested and jailed for carrying even a small amount of marijuana in their pocket, a charge that often came with exorbitant penalties and a serious criminal record because of the overcriminalization of marijuana, and it followed them for the remainder of their lives,” Schumer said.

Said Wyden: “This is cannabis common sense.”

Booker spoke about the importance of expunging records because of the effects they have on the lives of those who have been convicted of violating marijuana drug laws.

“And the hypocrisy of this is that, right here in the Capitol now, people running for Congress, people running for Senate, people running for president of the United States readily admit that they’ve used marijuana,” he said. “But we have children in this country, people all over this nation—our veterans, Black and Brown people, low-income people—now bearing the stain of having a criminal conviction for doing things that half of the last four presidents admitted to doing.”

The bill also would give states the power to decide whether they want to legalize the drug and would follow the path of several states in terms of reclassifying or removing marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances. Marijuana is federally classified as a dangerous drug with no legitimate medicinal use, despite laws in three dozen states allowing the medical use of cannabis.

Schumer’s bill would placate liberals who argue that criminalizing marijuana continues to be systemically discriminatory against people of color and low-income Americans while further harming a country rethinking the effects of mass incarceration.

Schumer is hoping to win the support of Republicans and reticent Democrats fearful about relaxing state laws by funding federal research into the effect of cannabis on the brain and drugged driving, as well as collecting data on violent crime, traffic deaths and other public health issues that GOP lawmakers often cite while protesting the loosening of marijuana laws.

But finding 10 GOP lawmakers to support Schumer’s bill and getting all 50 Democrats to sign on will be a challenge.

“What’s he been smoking?” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, quipped in April when told of Schumer’s wishes.

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8 thoughts on “Senators introduce measure for federal decriminalization of marijuana

  1. Considering what Biden and The Democrats are doing to the country, it probably would be a good idea to let everybody get stoned to ease the pain of watching the country go down the toilet.

    1. BOB OUT HERE WITH THE JOKES! Go back to the Wall Street Journal comments with this trash Bob.

    2. Joe, you have to sign up and create an account to read that New York Times article, even free. The last thing I want the uber-liberal New York Times to have is ANY of my personal information! (I don’t have a Facebook account either for the same reason….I can just imagine their harvesting intelligent, God-fearing remarks and turning them in as “subversive.”)

    3. Was free for me, Bob. And don’t worry, Facebook has plenty of your data already, and mine, and all of ours. Your should try Facebook. It’s like the ultimate AM talk radio machine. I mean, here’s the top 10 links from yesterday on Facebook.

      1. Franklin Graham
      2. News Channel 3 WWMT TV
      3. Ben Shapiro
      4. Ben Shapiro
      5. Peachy Sunday
      6. Nick Adams
      7. Ben Shapiro
      8. E! News
      9. Sean Hannity
      10. Ben Shapiro

      And it’s like that every day. What scares me is the echo chamber you’re in…

  2. It would be nice if everyone just looked at the potential positives versus negatives of marijuana with an open mind instead of through a political lens. For the government to continue to keep marijuana on the list of “Schedule 1 drugs with zero acceptable medical use” is in direct opposition to the government’s own research and prescribing of the drug. Stories continue to come out about the positive effects of marijuana for cancer treatments and pain mitigation. So lets research it instead of politicizing it.

  3. I’m just waiting for the Reefer Madness reboot…..also, does anyone honestly believe the Puritans in the state capital will seriously decriminalize it!?!?! They just recently removed the restriction for alcohol on Sunday!!! Do I smoke it every day….nope….but I do smoke it!