POLITICS

Chuck Schumer Vows Action To End Federal Prohibition On Marijuana

The Senate majority leader marked the "very unofficial American holiday" of 4/20 with a pledge to vote on legislation legalizing marijuana.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday reiterated his intention to hold a vote on legislation legalizing marijuana nationwide.

Schumer acknowledged “what you might call a very unofficial American holiday, 4/20,” before making the case for U.S. law that would decriminalize and regulate marijuana at the federal level.  

“It’s as appropriate a time as any to take a hard look at our laws that have over-criminalized the use of marijuana,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The war on drugs has too often been a war on people, particularly people of color.”

Schumer has supported ending federal prohibition on marijuana since 2018, reflecting a growing evolution among lawmakers in both parties in recent years. But legislation that would legalize weed has yet to receive a vote in the Senate.

Democrats, led by Schumer, Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.), are working on a cannabis reform bill that would end federal prohibition on marijuana and invest marijuana tax revenue into minority communities. Schumer said he hoped to have the legislation ready for floor action “in the near future.”

The House on Monday passed a bill by a wide bipartisan margin that would allow banks to provide services to cannabis companies in states where it is legal. Lawmakers voted 321-101 to approve the bill and send it to the Senate.

With Democratic control of the House and Senate, marijuana decriminalization at the federal level is the closest it has come to becoming law. But one big holdout is President Joe Biden, who backed more modest reforms during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Asked about the issue last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s position on legalizing weed “has not changed.”

Marijuana is currently legal for adults in 16 states and Washington, D.C. Virginia lawmakers voted this month to legalize cannabis, but the law won’t take effect until summer.