Good Luck Chuck….
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York plans to propose legislation on Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, putting his weight as majority leader behind a growing movement to unwind the decades-old war on drugs.
The draft bill, called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and begin regulating and taxing it, placing federal rules on a burgeoning industry that has faced years of uncertainty. Though states would still be allowed to set their own marijuana laws, businesses and individuals in states that have legalized its use would be free for the first time to sell and consume it without the risk of federal punishment.
The proposal would also try to make recompense to communities of color and the poor for damage from years of restrictive federal drug policy. It calls for immediately expunging nonviolent marijuana-related arrests and convictions from federal records and would earmark new tax revenue for restorative justice programs intended to lift up communities affected by “the failed federal prohibition of cannabis.”
The bill aims to “finally turn the page on this dark chapter in American history and begin righting these wrongs,” said Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, who wrote the bill with Mr. Schumer and Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and the chairman of the Finance Committee….
The uphill battle: The Senate’s discussion draft is based partially on a bill that passed the Democratic-controlled House in December that sought to remove federal penalties on weed, expunge some criminal records and create a social equity grant program, among other things. But with the Senate in Republican hands at the time, legislation was viewed as a messaging bill and a way to gauge support for the issue….
Some Senate Democrats like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) have voiced opposition to legalizing marijuana, and no Republicans have come out to replace the dubious Democrats regardless of local support.
GOP Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Steve Daines of Montana, who both represent states that have embraced recreational weed, remain opposed to federal legalization. But others, such as Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have said they’re open to discussing federal reform that still allows states to choose their own policies — the needle Schumer, Booker and Wyden will likely have to thread.
What’s next: The discussion draft has not yet been formally introduced and needs input broadly from other lawmakers. Schumer, Wyden and Booker’s offices are taking comment from lawmakers and the general public — including advocates, the cannabis industry, public health experts and the law enforcement community — until September 1.
The bottom line: Federal weed legalization is dicey at best, especially given the more pressing concerns of infrastructure spending and pandemic recovery.
Schumer said in April that any bill he introduced was certain to evolve — a draft serving as a jumping off point to spark discussion with unconvinced lawmakers in both parties….