Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday marked the marijuana holiday 4/20 by making the case for ending federal prohibition on the Senate floor.
In a speech, the senator said April 20 is “a very unofficial American holiday,” and the occasion is “as appropriate a time as any to take a hard look at our laws that have over-criminalized the use of marijuana and put it on a par with heroin, LSD and other narcotics that bear little or no resemblance in their effect either on individuals or on society more broadly.”
“The war on drugs has too often been a war on people, particularly people of color,” Schumer said. “Hopefully the next time this unofficial holiday 4/20 rolls around, our country will have made progress in addressing the massive over-criminalization of marijuana in a meaningful and comprehensive way.”
And to that end, the majority leader discussed efforts he’s leading alongside Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to draft a bill to federally legalize cannabis, which he said will be introduced “in the near future.”
Schumer told Marijuana Moment in an interview on Monday that the legislation will be comprehensive, and that lawmakers are working to incorporate other reform components such as providing explicit protections for banks that works with state-legal marijuana businesses.
“It’s time for change. I believe the time has come to end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country,” he said in the new remarks from the floor. “In state after state through ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments, the American people are sending a clear message that they want this policy changed.”
Beyond ending prohibition, Schumer said the proposal he and his colleagues are working on will “ensure restorative justice, public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” similar to what New York lawmakers sought to accomplish in a legalization bill that the governor signed into law late last month.
The senator also said last week that the legalization bill they’re working on will be brought to the floor of his chamber “soon.”
He, Wyden and Booker formally started their reform efforts by holding a meeting earlier this year with representatives from a variety of advocacy groups to gain feedback on the best approach to the reform.
Schumer made a point last month to say that it will specifically seek to restrict the ability of large alcohol and tobacco companies to overtake the industry.
Instead, it will prioritize small businesses, particularly those owned by people from communities most impacted by prohibition, and focus on “justice, justice, justice—as well as freedom,” he said.
He also urged voters to reach out to their congressional representatives and tell them that “this is long overdue.”
On the House side, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said recently that he plans to reintroduced his legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which cleared the chamber last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control.
Now that Democrats have the majority in both chambers, as well as the White House, there’s a sense of optimism among advocates that broad reform is achievable in this Congress.
But with respect to the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month that Biden’s position on adult-use legalization “has not changed,” meaning he still opposes the policy.