Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shocked the political world when he announced that he would introduce a bill to end federal cannabis prohibition by descheduling marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances. Of course, Schumer decided to announce his evolution on cannabis policy on April 20th. Here’s what the New York Democrat wrote about his change of heart, a Medium piece titled “Why I Changed My Stance on Marijuana“:
When looking at the support for legalization that clearly exists across wide swaths of the American population, it is difficult to make sense of our existing laws. Under current federal law, marijuana is treated as though it’s as dangerous as heroin and more dangerous than cocaine.
A staggering number of American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are African-American and Latino, continue to be arrested every day for something that most Americans agree should not be a crime. Meanwhile, those who are entering into the marijuana market in states that have legalized are set to make a fortune. This is not only misguided, but it undermines the basic principles of fairness and equal opportunity that are foundational to the American way of life.
That is why I am not only announcing my support for decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level. I am also announcing that in the coming 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 top Senate Democrat made good on his promise yesterday, introducing the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, a progressive proposal that would greatly benefit the country by turning the page on the failed, harmful, and racist War on Cannabis. Marijuana Moment reported on the historic bill, noting some important benefits above and beyond simply ending federal prohibition:
The legislation, which is cosponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), would also set aside $20 million annually to states and municipalities for the purpose of administering, expanding or developing expungement or sealing programs for marijuana possession convictions. No less than half of the funds would be earmarked for public defenders and legal aid providers.
Another provision, according to its section title, would “level the economic playing field” in the cannabis industry by requiring the Treasury Department to annually transfer an amount equal to 10% of total tax revenue generated by marijuana or $10 million, whichever is greater, to an account called the Marijuana Opportunity Trust Fund. Grants would be doled out by the Small Business Administration to industry outfits controlled by women and socially and economically disadvantaged people.
“The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” Schumer said in a press release. “The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans – especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use- the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy. 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.”
The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is a great step forward for the cannabis legalization movement and provides a great foundational building block for future federal efforts. Having the top Democratic Senator support such a progressive bill is a major victory for the movement and the bill provides a proper perspective on the important issues facing the cannabis community.
Senator Schumer seeks to unleash the economic benefits of the cannabis industry by opening up commerce across state (and even international borders) while helping mom-and-pop businesses, and erasing some of the harm inflicted by victims of the Drug War. So long as the cannabis community remains focused on showing the benefits of legalization and supporting officials that back the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act and other similar bills, the days of federal prohibition are numbered.
Learn more about federal and state efforts to end the War on Cannabis and unleash the positive economic and social benefits of the cannabis industry at the International Cannabis Business Conference this September 27th-28th in Portland, Oregon. Get your tickets by September 12th to save $200!