Senate Democrats Announce Plans To Legalize Cannabis

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On Monday Feb. 1, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden announced that they would soon be releasing “a draft discussion bill outlining how best to legalize and regulate cannabis and cannabis commerce in a post-prohibition America.” 

The announcement arrived months after the House voted on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (The MORE Act) and following the November election which showed a number of states voting for legalization and decriminalization of cannabis. Since the fall, Democrats have said they would be pushing for significant cannabis reform and now, they have control of both chambers and presumably, can do just that.

In a joint statement, Schumer, Booker, and Wyden connected legalizing and regulating cannabis to the racist war on drugs. 

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs,” their statement reads. “We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies. The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.”

Schumer, Booker, and Wyden said that soon they would be putting out a draft that would explore “comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations.” Along with the announcement, there was praise from Representative Earl Blumenauer, a co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus and cosponsor of the MORE Act.

“Last year, we moved heaven and earth to get a bill passed through the House with key criminal justice and restorative justice provisions, but Mitch McConnell blocked consideration. Now, new Senate leadership is prepared to pick up the mantle. The MORE Act—a product of years of work with advocates, cannabis industry leaders, and state governments—is a great foundation,” Blumenauer said. “We look forward to working with the Senate to refine the bill, advance its core principles, and end the federal prohibition of cannabis once and for all. The missing ingredient in cannabis reform has been Senate action. To finally have the active leadership of the new Senate majority leader, rather than being stuck in McConnell’s legislative graveyard, makes all the difference in the world.”

As The Outlaw Report has noted, former Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—a vocal support of hemp, by the way—has frequently weaponized cannabis reform, mocking The MORE Act and criticizing The HEROES Act, a COVID-19 relief bill that would allow cannabis banking through the SAFE Banking Act. McConnell appeared on Fox News to dismiss cannabis reform appearing in COVID relief bills—the same bills McConnell and other Republicans have attempted to thwart numerous times.

“Just to give you an example of some of the absurdity: there’s money in there for illegal immigrants, it mentions the word ‘cannabis’ of all things—68 times more than the word ‘jobs,’” McConnell said on Fox News.

But now that the Democrats control the Senate, McConnell’s critiques and deceptive claims hold significantly less weight. NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said as much in a statement released praising Schumer, Booker, and Wyden’s announcement.

“After years of marijuana policy reform being neglected and mocked by Mitch McConnell, it is heartening to see these Senate leaders working together to repeal the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana prohibition,” Strekal said. “We look forward to constructively engaging with Congressional leaders, other organizations, and those communities that have historically been most impacted by criminalization in order to ensure that we craft the strongest and most comprehensive bill possible to right the wrongs of the nearly a century of federal cannabis prohibition.”

Photo by lev radin via Shutterstock

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