Home Cannabis Sen. Chuck Schumer: It's Time To End Marijuana Prohibition

Sen. Chuck Schumer: It’s Time To End Marijuana Prohibition

In a shocking announcement of global and historic significance,  Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate minority leader, said he will introduce a bill to decriminalize cannabis nationwide.

Schumer dropped the bombshell on Thursday in an exclusive interview with VICE News and followed up on Friday with an 11-tweet thread on Twitter which begins:

It’s official. Today, I am formally announcing my plan to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. It’s time we allow states, once and for all, to have the power to decide what works best for them.

I have long believed that states should function as their own laboratories of democracy. My bill is a step in the right direction aimed at removing the barriers to state legalization efforts.

The out-of-the-blue declaration from a longtime drug warrior is just one more in series of pro-marijuana developments in recent weeks. The writing on the wall suggests cannabis prohibition may be coming to an end.

“The legislation is long overdue,” Schumer said in the VICE News interview. “I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long.

The complete interview will be televised Friday night at 7:30 on HBO’s “Vice News Tonight.”  

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In a first-person column in Medium, Schumer wrote:

I am not only announcing my support for decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level. I am also announcing that in the comings weeks, I will be introducing legislation aimed at achieving this goal. This legislation will allow each state to ultimately decide how they will treat marijuana. In addition to freeing up the residents of each state to make the decisions on what’s best for them, the bill will make targeted investments which are necessary to protect public health and safety and ensure that members of all communities are able to participate in the new and thriving marijuana economy.

The news was met with jubilation among marijuana reform advocates. “With this announcement, Senator Schumer has effectively made it clear that a legislative priority for the Democratic Party is to end the federal prohibition of marijuana,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment’s Tom Angell. “As Democratic Leader, it is his role to ensure that the caucus as a whole falls in line with this public policy position — a position that is held by more than 60 percent of Americans.”

Here is Friday morning’s Twitter thread:

It’s official. Today, I am formally announcing my plan to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. It’s time we allow states, once and for all, to have the power to decide what works best for them.

I have long believed that states should function as their own laboratories of democracy. My bill is a step in the right direction aimed at removing the barriers to state legalization efforts.

So why have I changed my stance? Looking at the numbers helped. 2/3 of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, meanwhile more than half of all drug arrests in the United States are marijuana arrests.

And under existing law, the federal government considers marijuana as dangerous as heroin and treats it less favorably than cocaine. That has to change.

In addition to decriminalization, my bill will invest critical resources into the THC research needed to prevent unintended effects on our youth and ensure highway safety.

It will also maintain federal authority to regulate interstate trafficking to ensure that marijuana from states that have legalized doesn’t pour into those that have not.

Now, I recognize that time after time when these sweeping changes occur, the little guys lose while the big guys continue to profit. We saw this with big tobacco and we could see it with marijuana as well.

That’s why this bill will inject real dollars into minority and women-owned businesses to ensure those disproportionately affected by marijuana criminalization can benefit from this new economy.

It’s clear that African Americans and Latinos have been disproportionately impacted; approximately 80% of people in federal prison and 60% in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.

This will not course correct the damage that’s been done, but it is a first step that can help to enable those historically harmed to have an opportunity to better compete in the industry as we make this change on the federal level.

Plain and simple: this is the right thing to do for America.

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