The top lawmaker in the U.S. Senate is again making clear that federal marijuana legalization is a priority part of his legislative agenda for 2021.
In a fundraising email to his list of supporters on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) laid out what he called “Democrats’ bold agenda for change this year.”
After first describing plans to tackle climate change and income inequality, Schumer turned to cannabis.
“Next is criminal justice reform—and voters agree,” he wrote. “Voters in four more states this election voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, and that proves once again it’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities, particularly in Black and brown communities. It’s time to decriminalize marijuana nationally.”
Last month, the majority leader pledged that he, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) would release a draft bill to end federal marijuana prohibition “in the early part of this year.” The three senators followed that up by holding a meeting with cannabis reform groups to discuss the plan.
While it’s not clear what the draft Senate marijuana reform proposal will entail, or when it will be released, Schumer said lawmakers are in the process of merging various pieces of existing legislation.
The top Democrat also pressed attorney general nominee Merrick Garland on respecting state marijuana laws during a meeting last month. Garland later said in his confirmation hearing and in written responses to questions from senators last week that he feels prosecuting people complying with local cannabis laws would not be a good use of federal resources.
Schumer, for his part, pledged prior to the 2020 election that he would move marijuana legislation to the floor if installed as majority leader. Then, in January, shortly after two Georgia runoff elections gave Democrats a Senate majority, he listed cannabis as a priority racial justice issue.
His latest comments, in the email blast to supporters, come with a link to a petition where people can “add your name” as supporters of “Democrats’ big, bold plan for 2021.” After doing so, they are directed to a page that asks them to donate money to Schumer’s campaign committee—a very common fundraising tactic in politics.
While Schumer clearly sees cannabis as a policy priority and as good politics for his party, it remains to be seen if he will be able to advance legalization through the Senate and into law.
The House approved a bill to deschedule cannabis last year, but President Joe Biden remains opposed to legalization despite supporting more modest reforms such as decriminalizing possession, expunging past records, legalizing medical marijuana, federally rescheduling the plant and letting states set their own laws.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris—who would provide the tie-breaking vote if senators were deadlocked 50-50 on any cannabis reform plan, and who sponsored the Senate version of the House-passed legalization bill last Congress—reportedly has flipped her position on marijuana again and now shares Biden’s anti-legalization views.
Read Schumer’s full email about 2021 priorities below:
From: Chuck Schumer <[email protected]>
Date: Friday, February 26, 2021 at 12:38 PM
Subject: Add your name: Support the big, bold agenda
Democrats are prepared to fight for progress.
[First Name] —
We have big plans for 2021 in the Senate.
I’m focused on a big, bold agenda supporting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris restoring faith in our democracy and making the government work for the American people again. We’ll be focused on everything from climate action to wealth and income inequality to criminal justice reform to passing laws that change the structure of our democracy by making it far easier to vote.
There’s a lot of work to do ahead, and the work starts today: Will you commit to supporting the Democrats’ bold agenda for change this year?
Here’s the plan:
On climate, we’ll focus on a big, strong, aggressive climate agenda that takes into account working people and racial injustice. We’ve already been working in the Senate on the THRIVE Agenda — a bold plan to fight climate change, create millions of union jobs, invest in Black, brown, and Indigenous communities, fight environmental injustice, and reinvest in public institutions.
Our next focus is wealth and income inequality, including raising the minimum wage nationwide to $15 an hour, changing the tax code so it’s fairer for working families, strengthening labor unions, championing infrastructure, and getting rid of student debt. This last point is a big one, because I have a proposal with Senator Elizabeth Warren that the first $50,000 of student debt be erased by executive action.
Next is criminal justice reform — and voters agree. Voters in four more states this election voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, and that proves once again it’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities, particularly in Black and brown communities. It’s time to decriminalize marijuana nationally.
Lastly — it needs to be easier for all Americans to vote and for those votes to be counted. If this election taught us anything, it’s that too many Americans face too many hurdles to making their voice heard, facing long lines, bureaucracy, and sometimes intimidation. Once they vote, Republican legislatures make it harder for votes to be counted if they suspect those votes could be from Democratic cities, leading to the long delays we’re still facing in getting results in some states. That has to change — and it has to change now.
We can do all this and more if we fight for it — are you in? Add your name to support Democrats’ bold agenda for change in support of the Biden-Harris Administration.