Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced new legislation to decriminalize marijuana on Wednesday (June 27). The bill, known as the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, removes marijuana from federal scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act and allows states to decide if and how they would like to legalize within their own borders.
In addition to decriminalizing marijuana on a federal level, the bill also gives the federal government control over advertising standards in the industry and allows federal law enforcement to continue to police trafficking across state borders.
The bill, which comes two months after Schumer voiced his support for legalization on 420, also includes $100 million in funding over five years as an incentive for states which have legalized to expunge or seal criminal records for low-level drug crimes.
Additional funding would be provided by the Small Business Administration to cannabis businesses owned by women and minorities in an attempt to make the cannabis industry more equitable. Funding for cannabis research would also be provided, with $250 million set aside to study the effects of cannabis on impaired driving as well as $500 for the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the FDA to study the effects of marijuana on the human body.
Schumer has spent the past two months working closely with members of the cannabis industry and drug reform advocates to craft the bill and its provisions, which go beyond simply legalizing the plant to offer criminal justice reforms aimed at undoing the damage of the Drug War.
“It’s indicative of the increasing focus on ensuring equity in the industry and we’re glad that cannabis businesses and elected officials are working to help undo some of the harm caused by marijuana prohibition,” said Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.
“The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” Schumer said in a statement. “This legislation is simply the right thing to do and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.”
Schumer, as the highest-ranking Democrat in Congress, could help to rally the party behind his plan, but it’s yet to be seen whether Republicans will also support the bill. Thus far, the proposal only appears to have the support of liberal members of the Senate. Its initial co-sponsors are Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
In April, President Trump promised to support a marijuana legalization plan that focused on allowing states to decide whether to legalize. That promise was directly connected to a deal the president reached with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who introduced the bi-partisan STATES Act, which also allows states to legalize, earlier this month.
Many consider Gardner’s bill to be the most likely to gain support from Trump. Schumer, on the other hand, has been a vocal opponent of the president’s policies and on the receiving end of more than a few angry tweets.
Yet when it comes to the Senate floor, Schumer has been far more favorable toward the president than his public statements, having supported Trump’s policies in the Middle East and approved many of his executive nominees. As a result, it’s not unthinkable that the president could support Schumer’s bill if he manages to gain enough support for it in Congress.