Chuck Schumer, Senator from New York, who is also the Majority Leader of the Senate from January 2021, once again made a call for decriminalizing marijuana use at the federal level. The bill he and others had proposed would put an end to the ban of marijuana by the federal government, and regulate it like tobacco or alcohol.
But more votes are needed to pass the bill into law. Though the senator has been trying to get support from Republicans, he has so far been not very successful.
Schumer pointed out the unfair impact of marijuana laws on communities that were even otherwise marginalized, and he called for a change that was in fact long overdue. He also expressed satisfaction that the country was edging closer to the change because people’s outlook was changing across all the states.
Most of the recent surveys have clearly proved the people’s support across the country for cannabis legalization. The way more and more states are legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is a clear indication of this.
Colorado and Washington legalized it first in 2012, and New York did it in 2021. On the whole, there are 37 states where it is legal to use cannabis for medicinal purposes and 18 where consumption for recreation is also legal.
But attempts to introduce a similar federal law have often hit roadblocks. In South Dakota, residents opted for legalization through the ballot box but the choice was overruled by the state’s Supreme Court.
The House of Representatives did pass the marijuana legalization bill in 2020 with the support of mainly Democrats and one lone Republican. Later, in July 2021, Senator Schumer proposed a draft bill to remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances and regulate it and tax it like alcohol.
It was a historic moment in the history of marijuana when Schumer said that he would make his power as the majority leader to push the bill forward. Though nothing much had happened after that, mainly due to lack of support from Republicans, on Friday Schumer reiterated his interest to push his agenda forward to bring about the decriminalization legislation.
The senator had discussions with cannabis activists and hoped to get the bill, which was necessary to remove the damage done by earlier laws, passed in the oncoming months. He expressed his hope to be able to prioritize the issue using the clout of his position while talking at a press conference which was also attended by Reps.
Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler, in Manhattan. Nadler, a leading sponsor of decriminalization, felt that misinformation and racial prejudices were the main reasons for the legal approach of the country in the matter. And Velazquez felt that the overall support of people showed that the time was ripe for the change, a change that would also provide a lot of commercial opportunities for small businesses.
Though Schumer is all excited about bringing about the change, President Biden is not. He supports the idea of decriminalization but not of legalizing cannabis for adult use. According to Jen Psaki, the press secretary of the White House, the president prefers the states to make those decisions themselves.
She also said that President Biden wanted to move marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act to that of Schedule II. The former includes LSD and heroin while the latter includes higher-risk substances like methamphetamine and cocaine. Schumer too said that endorsement from the President was not forthcoming on the matter of legalization.
Support from Republicans for the issue is also along the same line. Many of them are providing support for the idea of decriminalization but are not very enthusiastic about legalization. For the bill to be cleared by the Senate, Schumer would require the support of a minimum of 10 Republicans.