Addressing marijuana legalization supporters at a rally in New York this weekend, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) celebrated his home state’s newly passed cannabis law and said it’s time to bring the fight to the federal level.
“What we have accomplished in New York is just the beginning,” Schumer said during a speech at the NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally on Saturday. “We’re going to transfer that energy to Washington.”
It’s the Cannabis Parade and Rally in New York City.
This year, we finally and equitably legalized marijuana in New York.
And I won’t stop working to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and undo the harms of the War on Drugs. pic.twitter.com/ladWs58tY7
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 1, 2021
Schumer for months has signaled that he and Democratic colleagues Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) intend to bring legislation this session to legalize cannabis nationwide, though the group has not yet revealed their proposal.
“We’re going to put forward advanced, comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory and often bigoted policies,” Schumer said at the rally.
Watch Schumer’s marijuana rally comments, around 57:00 into the video below:
Schumer reminded the audience that he pushed state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to support a state legalization law with strong racial equity provisions, such as automatic expungement of past marijuana convictions and priority licensing for people most affected by the war on drugs. Federal legalization, he said, needs to include similar provisions.
“We’ve got to do it the right way,” the majority leader said of nationwide legalization. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in communities of color and to provide opportunities for folks who have been hit hard by prohibition.”
“Right now somewhere in this city, hopeful entrepreneurs are gathering together, thinking up a future marijuana business that’ll provide jobs for New Yorkers and tax dollars to harmed communities,” Schumer said.
The War on Drugs has been a war on people.
Today, we celebrated NY's equitable legalization at the Cannabis Parade and Rally in NYC.
I'll keep working to end the federal prohibition.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 1, 2021
He emphasized the drug war’s historical racial bias, noting that people of color, particularly Black and brown people in New York, have been disproportionately arrested and jailed over marijuana.
“For decades—this has been horrible—young men and young women, disproportionately young men and women of color, have been arrested and jailed for even carrying small amounts of marijuana, a charge that came with exorbitant punitive penalties, a serious criminal record,” he said. “And so many of them could never recover from that. We can never let that happen again.”
A number of other pro-legalization officials spoke at Saturday’s rally, including lawmakers who supported the state’s new cannabis law as well as New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).
It’s high time the NYC Cannabis Parade is celebrating legal cannabis in New York!
Let me be blunt: we must make sure this new industry provides opportunity for everyone, especially communities of color that have been most impacted by over enforcement for far too long. pic.twitter.com/Dmmnsugau7
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) May 1, 2021
Schumer said he expects bipartisan support for the federal policy change, noting that more and more Republican-led states have moved to end prohibition.
“We’ve got support across the country,” Schumer said. “Did you hear about South Dakota? Hardly a liberal bastion. They voted to legalize!”
Schumer did not provide an updated timeline for the federal legalization proposal. Two weeks ago, he said it would be placed on the floor “soon.”
The majority leader also recently celebrated the cannabis holiday 4/20 in a Senate floor speech.
On the House side, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said recently that he plans to reintroduce his own 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.