Schumer Boosts Federal Weed Legalization Effort In The Senate

The Senate Majority Leader plans to submit legislation in the next "several months."

Don’t hold your breath, but a Senate bill seeking to legalize marijuana at the federal level may soon move forward.

In a “dear colleague” letter sent Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) formally solicited input from the rest of the Senate on the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which they drafted for discussion last year.

Schumer said at a press conference last week that he intends to introduce the bill in the next “several months,” and signaled it would be a legislative priority for the chamber he oversees.

“As majority leader, I can set priorities,” he said. “This is a priority.”

As written, the bill would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge federal non-violent weed-related crimes from peoples’ records. Critically, it would also remedy some of the harms of marijuana prohibition by investing cannabis tax revenue back into communities injured the most by the war on drugs.

Potential programs earmarked for funding include job training, reentry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation/mentoring, and health education. While those represent tangible progress, a Brookings Institution analysis suggested programs like child care, housing assistance, and education would also benefit from cannabis-related tax revenue.

It’s unclear how well received the legislation would be at the White House. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last year that President Joe Biden supported legalizing medical marijuana, but any decision on legalizing recreational use should be left to individual states.

Since 2010, 18 states have legalized medical and recreational weed, and 37 — controlled by both Democrats and Republicans — legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

“Hundreds of millions of Americans live in states that have legalized cannabis in some form while it remains illegal at the federal level,” the senators wrote in Thursday’s letter. “This discrepancy leads to confusion and uncertainty and raises significant questions ... which we believe require some type of federal answer.”

“This bill aims to right the wrongs of the past and ensure that the federal government is matching the advancements made in states across the country.”

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