Democrats announced earlier this month that they plan to introduce legislation to legalize cannabis federally.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ron Wyden (D-Or) said that they would push not only to end marijuana prohibition but will also focus on social equity and restorative justice.
“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,” said Sens. Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ron Wyden (D-Or) in a joint statement.
The senators said that they expect to unveil the legislation “in the early part of this year” that is a “unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”
Hearing from marijuana advocacy groups and stakeholders in the cannabis industry will be part of drafting the legislation. Last week, the senators held a virtual roundtable with representatives from NORML, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Veterans Cannabis Coalition, and Students from Sensible Drug Policy, as well as the National Cannabis Industry Association and the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA).
“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,” the senators said.
In 2020, the House passed the MORE Act, which sought to deschedule cannabis, expunge marijuana convictions, and create reinvestment programs in communities most impacted by the war on drugs. Unfortunately, the bill never received a hearing in the Senate.
“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,” said Earl Blumenauer (D-Or) in a statement. “Now, new Senate leadership is prepared to pick up the mantle.”
Support for ending cannabis prohibition has come a long way since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana in their states in 2012. As of this year, 15 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized weed. According to a Gallup poll conducted last November, 68% of Americans support marijuana legalization.