Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday renewed his calls for the federal legalization of marijuana, reports the New York Daily News.
Schumer, a liberal Democrat, and some of his Congressional allies made his case in lower Manhattan. They’ve been working to enlist scant Republican support over the past several months.
“Change has been urgently needed for a long time,” Schumer said, referencing the disproportionate impact Cannabis laws have had on Black communities. “The good news is we’re on the edge of getting change, because the opinions throughout America are changing.”
Americans Support Legalization
But Congressional efforts to translate cross-party support into federal law have a steep climb in the Senate.
The House passed a cannabis decrim bill late in 2020 on a mostly party-line vote. And in July, Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation meant to shitcan marijuana’s erroneous classification under the Controlled Substances Act, creating a path for federal regulation.
The introduction of the 163-page draft bill in the Senate was a symbolically potent moment. But hasn’t yet yielded any concrete results.
“Minds Are Changing”
Schumer said Friday that he intends to intensify his outreach on the issue in the coming weeks and to introduce final decriminalization legislation before a nationwide push.
He said he hopes to finalize the bill in the next “several months,” and he met with drug-policy activists late last month. They discussed the need to pass legislation that targets racial and economic inequities resulting from past policies.
“As majority leader, I can set priorities. This is a priority,” Schumer said in a news conference. He was joined by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) outside the Manhattan Municipal Building.
“All across the country, states are legalizing,” Schumer said. “All across the country, minds are changing.”
He said he plans to introduce the bill in April, reports Marijuana Moment.
But Will Biden Get On Board?
Though President Biden supports decriminalizing Cannabis, he has not supported legalization. He didn’t immediately warm to the Senate proposal last year.
“The president supports leaving decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, last April.
Psaki noted that the president also supports moving Cannabis from Schedule I, which includes heroin and LSD, to Schedule II. That’s unfortunately not much of an improvement. Schedule II is another category of high-risk drugs that includes cocaine and methamphetamine.
Schumer said doesn’t yet have Biden’s endorsement for the legislation.
“We’re talking to the president on this issue,” Schumer said.
Schumer: We Need 10 Senate Republicans
Schumer also said a few Republicans are supporting the legalization bill. “Not as many as we’d like,” Schumer added. He noted there’s significant support among Republican voters.
Schumer would need backing from at least 10 GOP lawmakers to push the bill through the Senate.
In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana use. Today, 18 states have legalized recreational use, and 37 have legalized medical use, according to a count by the National Conference of State Legislatures.