Chuck Schumer is the latest Senator to change his tune about legalizing marijuana, and he couldn’t have done it on a more appropriate day. On Thursday, he hinted to Vice News that he would be introducing a bill to decriminalize marijuana on a federal level — on 4/20 of course.
“I have long believed that states should function as their own laboratories of democracy,” Schumer wrote officially on Twitter Friday. “My bill is a step in the right direction aimed at removing the barriers to state legalization efforts.”
The legislation would rid marijuana of its Schedule I classification, which puts cannabis in the same criminal category as ecstasy and heroine. While the bill would leave marijuana advertising in the hands of the federal government — similar to tobacco and alcohol — it leave regulation up to individual states. The bill would also call for funding for minority and women-owned marijuana businesses, as well as more research into the health effects of cannabis — a significantly understudied area of research.
The move to introduce this legislation could prove significant for the federal government, which has basically been see-sawing back and forth about regulating marijuana all year. In January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions chose to roll back an Obama-era light touch policy that had seen the federal government give states more leeway in regulating pot. The move put states who had legalized the drug into a confusing regulatory limbo and lead to a tete-a-tete with Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, whose state has enjoyed the economic benefits of legal marijuana since 2012.
Schumer’s decision to introduce this bill comes as federal politicians are beginning to get on the pro-marijuana bandwagon in kind. On Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders became the latest lawmaker to add his name to a bill proposed by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker to legalize marijuana. Perhaps even more importantly, Booker’s bill would expunge the records of people convicted of marijuana charges. It would also give incentives to states whose criminalization laws have disproportionately affected people of color.
Along with promoting the rights of states, Schumer’s comments Friday echoed the sentiments that communities of color have been overly affected by the war on drugs, and that it’s time to make a change.
In a Medium post also released Friday, Schumer essentially said that his view on marijuana has changed since states began to decriminalize the drug and nothing bad has really happened.
Schumer’s bill is expected to be will be released within the week, and as such, there’s no date yet as to when the bill will reach committee.