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Senators: Its Time to Consider Ending Federal Prohibition on Cannabis

July 14, 2021 by Dan McCue
From left, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announce a draft bill that would decriminalize marijuana on a federal level Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

WASHINGTON. –  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. announced Wednesday he would join Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.Y. and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in bringing forward legislation to end the federal prohibition on cannabis.

The trio of senators was set to unveil their “discussion draft” of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act later Wednesday afternoon.

In remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, Schumer said American attitudes toward cannabis have undergone a dramatic  transformation and that it’s now time to seriously consider — for the first time — decriminalizing it.

“Nearly 70% of Americans support legalizing adult use of marijuana,” he said,repeating the percentage for emphasis.

“Eighteen states plus D.C. have passed laws on adult use of marijuana,” he continued. 

“Thirty-seven states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use. The states are supposed to be our laboratories for democracy, and by all accounts, these experiments have been a success. The doom and gloom predictions of the naysayers – all crime will go way up, drug use will go way up – have never, never materialized.

“I know a state like South Dakota had this on its ballot in the last election, and in that conservative state, the majority of people voted in the same direction we’re talking about here,” he added.

Schumer, Booker and Wyden contend that the societal costs of the federal prohibition on cannabis has fallen disproportionately on young Black and Hispanic men and women, who have been arrested and jailed for carrying even a small amount of marijuana in their pocket.

In almost all cases, these charges have come with exorbitant penalties and a serious criminal record that followed them for the remainder of their lives. 

“It makes no sense and it’s time for a change,” Schumer said.

“For decades, our federal government has waged a War on Drugs that has unfairly impacted low-income communities and communities of color,” said Booker. “While red and blue states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind. It is time for Congress to end the federal marijuana prohibition and reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”

“Cannabis prohibition, a key pillar of the failed War on Drugs, has caused substantial harm to our communities and small businesses, and especially for communities of color,” said Wyden. “It’s as simple as this: Senators Booker, Schumer and I want to bring common sense to the federal government, end prohibition and restore the lives of those hurt most and set them up for opportunity.”

“Now is the time for Congress to engage in this debate, update our federal laws to not only reflect popular wisdom but science. Marijuana, amazingly in this twenty-first century, is still treated by federal law with the same hostility as heroin, despite it being far, far less dangerous,” he said.

The text of the discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act can be found HERE, a one pager can be found HERE and a detailed summary can be found HERE.

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