Democratic Senate leadership has a plan to legalize marijuana at the federal level at some point this year.
In a joint statement released Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Senator Cory Booker detailed how the Democratic-controlled upper chamber will prioritize federal marijuana legalization in the new Congress. They plan to introduce legislation in the coming weeks designed to establish a taxed and regulated cannabis market.
“Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country,” Senators Booker, Wyden, and Schumer said in a statement. “We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies,” the lawmakers continued. “The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.”
Ever since the Democrats won the majority in the Senate, there has been a lot of speculation on exactly how the course of federal marijuana legalization would pan out. Schumer himself said last week that marijuana reform would be a priority. Still, he stopped short of saying that it would include full-blown legalization.
Instead, he acted like it was more probable that this reform would be wrapped up in a much larger racial justice bill — alluding that decriminalization might be in the cards. After all, the Democratic Party’s latest platform indicates that they intend to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. President Joe Biden has agreed that is the right move.
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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last December to federally legalize marijuana, but it failed to garner any consideration by the then Republican-controlled Senate. Schumer said earlier last year that if the Democrats gained control of the Senate, a marijuana legalization bill would go to the floor, and it would likely pass. It seems he is not wasting any time seeing that it does.
“In the early part of this year, we will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” the Senate lawmakers said. “Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”
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“After years of marijuana policy reform being neglected and mocked by Mitch McConnell, it is heartening to see these Senate leaders working together to repeal the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana prohibition,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “We look forward to constructively engaging with Congressional leaders, other organizations, and those communities that have historically been most impacted by criminalization in order to ensure that we craft the strongest and most comprehensive bill possible to right the wrongs of the nearly a century of federal cannabis prohibition.”
It’s not immediately clear what President Biden’s thoughts are on this announcement. While the president supports eliminating the criminal penalties associated with pot possession, he isn’t exactly sold on legalization. However, advocates hope that they can convince him to go along with Congress. If he does, 2021 could be the year that marijuana finally goes legal in the United States.