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Schumer And Other Democrats Amplify Calls For Marijuana Reform Ahead Of 4/20, Which Congressman Says Should Be Celebrated ‘Every Day’



Democratic senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are “trying to recruit Republicans” to join them in the push for federal marijuana legalization, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said at an event ahead of 4/20, which another lawmaker said is a holiday that should be celebrated “every day” this year as advocates work to get reform “across the finish line.”

At a press briefing organized by the Last Prisoner Project (LPP) on Wednesday, multiple congressional champions of cannabis legalization marked progress in the fight to end prohibition. Schumer, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA), also shared thoughts about the status of the movement at another 4/20-oriented event.

As Schumer, Wyden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) prepare to file a bill to federally legalize marijuana later this month, Wyden said the trio are “out right now trying to recruit Republicans to join in.”

“I want you to hear what my message is. I’m gonna say one word: Deschedule,” he said. “Descheduling ought to be a Republican dream… Sometimes I think they’re only for states’ rights if they think the state is right.”

Schumer, meanwhile, applauded advocates and discussed his work on legalization and cannabis banking reform in a pre-recorded video that was shared with Marijuana Moment ahead of a National Cannabis Policy Summit on Wednesday.

“My commitment to ending federal prohibition on cannabis remains as strong as ever,” he said. “As many of you know, cannabis reform is an issue I’ve cared about, and I’ve been working hard on, for years. And as many of you know, momentum is now in our favor.”

“Here in Congress, we’re making some good progress,” he said, pointing to the Senate Banking Committee passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act last September. Schumer also reiterated his interest in attaching a measure to incentivize state-level cannabis expungements to the legislation when it’s brought to the floor.

The majority leader also talked about his forthcoming Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) to legalize marijuana.

“Cannabis legalization has proven successful at the state level. It’s high time that Congress catches up with the rest of the country,” Schumer said. “Of course, we know none of this is easy, especially in divided government. We need all of you to continue reaching out to members, especially Republican members, so we can make cannabis reform a reality.”

Warren was also featured in a pre-recorded video, where she emphasized that it’s “time to legalize marijuana.”

“Communities, activists—people like you—have been fighting to deschedule cannabis for decades. But here’s the thing: Republicans in Congress are blocking legislation to legalize marijuana,” she said. “Think of it this way: Descheduling is a tool that we can use to get this done without Republican obstruction.”

“We need to keep up our fight to deschedule and legalize cannabis nationwide,” she said. “And I’m really glad to have all of you as partners in this fight. Let’s get it done.”

Warnock said in his own video addressed to advocates that “the work many of you have done to break down stigmas and address barbaric criminal penalties, while building a diverse culture within the cannabis community, cannot be overstated.”

“While there is still a lot more work to be done, we should be proud of the progress made and renew our efforts in this fight,” he said. “I hope this optimism and commitment to restorative justice—to equity—is evident throughout your discussions today. And I look forward to seeing your continued success. Keep the faith and keep looking up.”

Back at the LPP event, Congressional Cannabis Caucus founding co-chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) touted his 51 years of work to reform state and federal marijuana laws. He also said it’s “appropriate” that advocates and lawmakers are celebrating 4/20 three days early because, “this year, we ought to be celebrating 4/20 every day.”

“Forces are aligned to be able to end this failed war on drugs and mobilize unprecedented support across the country,” he said. “And, frankly, the Biden administration has been doing a little realignment, which I welcome. But it’s time to not just realign but get it done.”

“President Biden, if I was interested in mobilizing young people—if I was interested in energizing them—this is a no-brainer,” Blumenauer said.

Merkley also spoke at the event, promoting a bipartisan marijuana banking bill while arguing that it’s “long past time we descheduled cannabis.”

He added that while rescheduling cannabis, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended, “might be a step in the right direction,” full descheduling “would allow us to fully address the crime, the harms of criminalization, the prison sentences, the prison records, the fines, the access to public housing, access to nutrition assistance and the deportations.”

On the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, Merkeley said “let’s not let this year pass without getting this bill” through Congress and “onto the president’s desk.”

“We don’t know what the next election will bring,” he said. “Let’s get it done.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) also said at the event that “criminalizing marijuana is part of the failed war on drugs and sustained a mass incarceration crisis that has ravaged our communities, destabilized our families and inflicted generational trauma.”

The congresswoman applauded the Biden administration for issuing cannabis pardons, but urged the president to significantly expand clemency to the “tens of thousands” of people who remain incarcerated over marijuana. She said the issue is “personal” to her because one of her parents was incarcerated over a drug-related offense.

“My story is hardly an anomaly,” she said. “When we’re talking about the war on drugs, cannabis justice and the shameful crisis of mass incarceration, there are no excuses for the problem. No excuses, but there is a solution—and clemency is a part of that solution.”

“Cannabis justice is racial justice. Cannabis justice is economic justice. Cannabis justice is reparative. It is restorative justice. And the time to act is now,” she said.

Congressional Lawmakers Approve GOP-Led Marijuana And Psychedelics Bills Focused On Veterans

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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