Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed legislation Wednesday, July 14, to legalize marijuana at the federal level, a move aimed at easing restrictive drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and poor Americans across the board.
Titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, Schumer and co. would enact a new mandate the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and introduce regulations to tax cannabis products. Federal records of nonviolent cannabis offenders would also be expunged, according to the proposal, and allow people serving time in federal prison for nonviolent marijuana crimes to petition a court for re-sentencing.
“This is monumental,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during a press conference at the Capitol. “At long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. Schumer unveiled the draft along with Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
From the new cannabis tax revenue, an Opportunity Trust Fund would be implemented to invest in programs for communities most affected by the “failed War on Drugs,” according to a draft of the bill.
Generally opposed by Republicans and some moderate Democrats, the plan to decriminalize marijuana is still not an easy sell. President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris have not endorsed the proposed plan either, while Sen. Schumer will require 60 votes—including at least 10 GOP votes—to pass it through the Senate.
Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of cannabis and 18 states along with D.C. have legalized recreational use of the drug by adults. However, this matters little as the drug continues to be illegal under federal law.
“For decades, our federal government has waged a War on Drugs that has unfairly impacted low-income communities and communities of color,’ Sen. Booker said in a statement. “While red and blue states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind. It is time for Congress to end the federal marijuana prohibition and reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”
Public polling across the country shows that nearly 70% of Americans support legalizing the drug.