Senate Democrats unveil bill to decriminalize marijuana

Senate Democrats unveiled a bill on Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-N.Y.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — EU calls out Russian hacking efforts aimed at member states Why Democrats opposing Biden's tax plan have it wrong MORE (D-Ore.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerTim Scott says police reform talks collapsed with Dems over funding Sunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies Democrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol MORE (D-N.J.) introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act on Wednesday after Schumer previously teased the plan on April 20.

The bill is designed to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level, expunge federal convictions for nonviolent marijuana crimes, allow those imprisoned for marijuana to petition their sentencing, take marijuana off the federal list of controlled substances and create a tax system for the substance. 

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Schumer said at a press conference the next step for the discussion draft is to get input from stakeholder groups, as it is “essential to the legislation’s success.”

The road for the draft bill will be rough, as it would need 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. The House in December passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana, with the vote passing despite majority GOP opposition.

Schumer stated he does not currently have the votes to pass the legislation but has large support from Democrats for it. Negotiations will have to be done with Republicans in order to get the bill through. 

The public’s opinion of marijuana has switched dramatically over recent years, with a majority of the country, including Republican voters, now supporting an end to the criminalization of the substance.

Wyden emphasized during the press conference that the marijuana business saved hundreds of jobs during the pandemic when most businesses were struggling to stay afloat.

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“This is a historic day,” Booker said. “This is the first time in American history a majority leader of the United States Senate is leading the call to end the prohibition of marijuana.”

The Democratic senators said Republicans who support the rights of states should support the bill, as it lets states decide if marijuana should be legalized. There are 18 states who have already legalized marijuana for recreational use. 

“People running for president of the United States readily admit that they’ve used marijuana but we have children in this country, people all over the nation, our veterans, Black and brown people, low-income people now bearing the stain of having a criminal conviction for doing things half of the last four presidents admitted to doing,” Booker added.

Former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, along with other representatives and senators, have admitted to past marijuana usage.