Chuck Schumer announces plans to federally decriminalize cannabis

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to introduce legislation on Friday to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level, adding a high-profile advocate in the effort to decriminalize, legalize and normalize marijuana use in America.

Schumer’s legislation would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under a 1970 law that classifies marijuana as dangerous as heroin for legal and regulatory purposes.

It would establish funding for women- and minority-owned marijuana businesses, require more research on the drug’s public health impact, and maintain federal authority to regulate commercial advertising, similar to existing regulations for tobacco and alcohol.

“Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” Schumer told VICE News Tonight on HBO in an interview on Thursday evening.

Schumer’s bill would remove marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances, and would leave it up to states to decide how to regulate the drug, Vice reports.

“My personal view is legalization is just fine,” Schumer said. “The best thing to do is let each state decide on its own.”

Schumer said his bill could get introduced as early as next week, but did not provide a firm timeline.

“I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do. I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by the criminalization,” he said.

With this announcement, Schumer joins a growing bipartisan chorus of lawmakers calling for the federal government to update its stance on marijuana.

Sen. Bernie Sanders signed on to Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act on Thursday. (Like Schumer, Sanders could be a top presidential contender for the Democrats in 2020.)

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And Republican John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House, announced earlier this month he was joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a firm that owns marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries in 11 US states.

Even President Donald Trump has indicated that he would support a bill protecting state’s rights to legalize marijuana, which is the intent of Schumer’s bill.

Marijuana legalization is more popular than ever. A recent Gallup poll indicates 64% of voters, and 72% of Democrats support legalizing marijuana.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was appointed by Trump, remains opposed marijuana legalization, though. In January, Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance directing the Justice Department to place a low priority on enforcing federal law in states where marijuana has been legalized.

“It’s time we allow states, once and for all, to have the power to decide what works best for them,” Schumer said in a tweet on Friday.

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