Schumer says Senate will move ahead on marijuana legalization
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to move forward with legislation to federally legalize marijuana, even if President Biden resists such a move.
In an interview with Politico published Saturday, Schumer said he “will have an ongoing conversation” with Biden on the legalization of cannabis to “tell him how my views have evolved” on the issue.
However, Schumer said that if Biden, who has vocalized opposition to the full legalization of cannabis, does not eventually come around to the legislation, the Senate will still “move forward.”
“He [Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it,” the Senate Democratic leader told Politico. “I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will.”
“But at some point we’re going to move forward, period,” he added.
Schumer pointed out that while he initially opposed federal marijuana legalization, his “thinking evolved,” and in 2018, he became “the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition.”
“When a few of the early states — Oregon and Colorado — wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer explained.
However, the New York senator added, “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well.”
“They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy,” he said.
Schumer’s commitment to putting forth marijuana legislation comes as his home state of New York this week officially legalized recreational marijuana for adults, following a slew of other states that passed measures in recent months lifting restrictions on cannabis for medical and recreational use.
The fight for federal cannabis reform comes as Biden has also faced pressure to reverse his administration’s employee policy on past marijuana use after it was reported that five staffers had been fired as a result of the policy.
A group of 30 Democratic lawmakers last week signed a letter to Biden urging him to “clarify your employment suitability policies, remove past cannabis use as a potential disqualifier, and apply these policies with consistency and fairness.”
Schumer, in the interview published Saturday, cited the much higher level of support for marijuana legalization among the American people than in past years. A November 2020 Gallup poll found 68 percent of Americans supported legalization, the highest level ever measured by Gallup on the issue.
In February, Schumer, along with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), announced a commitment to making “comprehensive cannabis reform” a top priority.
“The War on Drugs has been a war on people — particularly people of color,” they said in a statement at the time. “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.”