Today, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation that would decriminalize and de-schedule marijuana at the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act.
“Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer’s introduction of federal marijuana decriminalization legislation demonstrates the legitimacy of marijuana reform and is a testament to the success of state-level marijuana reforms all across the country,” said the Drug Policy Alliance’s Queen Adesuyi. “It shows that the debate has shifted from whether we should reform our marijuana laws to how. As we stand on the horizon of ending marijuana prohibition, lawmakers across the country are working to include measures that begin repairing the harms of marijuana criminalization.”
The bill would also take some initial steps toward reducing the decades-long damage of marijuana criminalization. One provision would provide $20 million annually for state and local programs to expunge or seal the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana possession. It also creates a small business trust fund at the federal level (based on a fraction of the money generated by the marijuana industry) to give loans to small businesses owned by women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
Nine states and D.C. have legalized marijuana, and 30 states and D.C. have approved medical marijuana. Nationally, polls consistently show that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults favor marijuana legalization.
Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act has also been introduced in both the House and Senate, gathering numerous high-profile co-sponsors, including Senators Kamala Harris and Jeff Merkley last month. This farther-reaching bill would not just decriminalize marijuana – but end federal marijuana prohibition – while also including a wider range of provisions to repair communities most affected by the war on drugs.
Earlier this year, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through the state legislature. New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and numerous other states have also introduced bills to legalize marijuana this year.
The evidence so far shows that legally regulating and controlling marijuana has enabled states to successfully set safety standards, restrict youth access, and enact regulations that limit the potential harms of marijuana use. States are choosing to stop wasting money enforcing petty marijuana offenses, and to instead generate millions of dollars a year in tax revenues.