Marijuana decriminalization just got a big push from one of the leading voices in the Senate.
On Friday, the unofficial marijuana holiday 4/20, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled a plan to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level.
Schumer, of New York, joins a growing chorus of the public and voters who believe that marijuana has been unfairly targeted by the federal government.
Senator Schumer’s bill would take marijuana off the federal list of controlled substances.
This would have a twofold effect.
First, it would encourage law enforcement to reduce marijuana related punishments across all levels of government.
Second, it would encourage states that have not already legalized it at the state level to go ahead and do so.
Importantly, Senator Schumer’s legislation would not prohibit federal law enforcement from blocking the movement of marijuana between states where it is legal to other states where it is not.
The legislation represents a change of policy for Schumer, who had previously been against decriminalization at the federal level.
“The time has come to decriminalize marijuana,” Schumer said.
He went on to say, “My thinking, as well as the general population’s views, on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done. It’s simply the right thing to do.”
A unique provision of Schumer’s bill would seek to increase funding for marijuana businesses owned by women and minorities.
Minority communities have been severly and disproportionately affected by drug arrests and prison sentencing.
Schumer’s bill also would require more research on the drug’s public health impact.
Furthermore, the bill would maintain federal authority to regulate commercial advertising as it relates to marijuana. This is similar to how existing regulations work for tobacco and alcohol.
Marijuana in 2018
While marijuana advocates are sure to be happy over the proposed Schumer bill, there is a long and difficult road ahead to see it passed.
The nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has come out strongly against marijuana legislation in recent weeks.
Nevertheless, nine states and the District of Columbia already have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Many other states have decriminalized the substance to at least some degree, or allow it for medical use.
In one interesting twist, some lawmakers support the ability of states to draft their own marijuana laws, but they oppose decriminalizing it on the federal level.
A Gallup survey in October showed 64% of Americans think marijuana should be legal.