US Senate Leadership Announces Plan to Federally Legalize Weed
The Senate's new Democratic leadership has announced a plan to roll several recent attempts at cannabis reform into one single comprehensive bill.
Published on February 2, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has joined fellow Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to announce a new plan to finally eradicate federal cannabis prohibition.

“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 senators said in a joint statement, NORML reports. “Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”

Dozens of cannabis reform bills have appeared before Congress in the past decade, and two more have already been proposed this year. The greatest advancements in federal reform arrived last month, when the House passed the MORE Act, a bill to federally deschedule cannabis, and the MMRA, a bill to increase researchers' access to cannabis. But under the leadership of former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), these bills had no chance of appearing before the Senate.

Now that control of the Senate has shifted to the Democrats, it is far more likely that marijuana legislation will come up for debate. Sen. Schumer has already promised that weed reform will be one of his top priorities this year, and this new statement makes it clear that he intends to keep that promise. 

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color,” the senators wrote. “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. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.”

“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 Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.”

Each of these three senators has actually already drafted their own unique cannabis reform bill. Sen. Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in 2017, and Schumer unveiled the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act last year. Sen. Wyden also created his own legalization bill last year, but he and his fellow Democrats plan to put their individual plans aside and work towards a comprehensive bill that will include all the best features of each individual proposal.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who has championed numerous cannabis reform bills himself, said that his pro-legalization fellows in the House “look forward to working with the Senate to refine the bill, advance its core principles, and end the federal prohibition of cannabis once and for all. The missing ingredient in cannabis reform has been Senate action. To finally have the active leadership of the new Senate majority leader, rather than being stuck in McConnell’s legislative graveyard, makes all the difference in the world.”

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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