Schumer proposes federal decriminalization of marijuana

Erin Doherty

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) unveiled draft legislation on Wednesday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: Though the legislation faces steep odds in the 50-50 Senate, it’s a major milestone for marijuana activists and a sign of how far the debate has moved on criminal justice and the war on drugs.

Details: The bill, called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, would remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act and impose a federal tax on marijuana products, according to Marijuana Moment.

  • Revenue from the tax would be used to fund grant programs for communities most impacted by marijuana prosecutions. Regulation of marijuana would be transferred away from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies.
  • States would still be allowed to set their own marijuana laws, but businesses and individuals in states that have legalized it would be allowed to sell and consume marijuana without the risk of federal punishment.
  • The bill would also require federal districts to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related arrests and convictions within one year.

Between the lines: Taking marijuana off the list of controlled substances “would remove the most difficult regulatory burdens from U.S. marijuana companies, allowing them to take tax deductions, hold bank accounts and loans, and list on U.S. stock exchanges such as the Nasdaq and the NYSE,” Bloomberg reports.

What they’re saying: “For decades, young men and women — disproportionately young Black and Hispanic men and women, have been arrested and jailed for even carrying a small amount of marijuana in their pocket,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

  • “This is monumental,” Schumer said Wednesday while announcing the draft legislation. “At long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.”

What to watch: The House voted overwhelmingly to decriminalize marijuana last year and reintroduced a bill in May. Any weed legislation will likely face a difficult path forward in the Senate, where Republicans have expressed opposition and some moderate Democrats may be skeptical. President Biden has not endorsed the bill.