WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of three Democratic senators, including the majority leader, introduced draft legislation Wednesday that would decriminalize marijuana on the federal level.
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Ryden (D-Ore.) held a press conference to present the draft bill.
Joining @SenSchumer & @RonWyden to announce our legislative draft that will:
✅ Legalize marijuana
✅ Expunge marijuana arrest records
✅ Reinvest in communities most harmed by the drug war
It’s past time we take steps to fix decades of failed drug policy. https://t.co/SyrwUy9Liq
— Sen. Cory Booker (@SenBooker) July 14, 2021
“We are all joining together to release draft legislation to end the federal prohibition on cannabis. This is monumental because at long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs,” Schumer said.
The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, expunge nonviolent federal cannabis-related criminal records and start regulating and taxing the drug.
“We also very much believe in the expungement of records because of the historical overcriminalization,” Schumer said.
Schumer said people shouldn’t have to live with criminal records for the rest of their lives if they are caught with a small amount of marijuana in their possession.
“Expunge those records. Let these people become productive citizens without that criminal record, that severe criminal record hanging over their heads,” Schumer said.
Booker said the bill would also seek to reinvest in the communities that have been the most harmed by the "War on Drugs."
The next step in the effort to get the bill passed is getting further input from stakeholder groups, according to Schumer.
Booker said at the briefing that this is the first time in history that the majority leader of the U.S. Senate is leading the call to end prohibition of marijuana. He said it was also noteworthy that Ryden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was joining them.
While taking questions from the press, Schumer admitted that he doesn’t currently have the votes needed to pass the bill, but a “large majority” of his Democratic caucus supports it. He said he’ll show them the draft legislation and negotiate.
The legalization of cannabis remains popular in the U.S. A Pew Research poll released in April found 91% of American adults say either that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, or that it should be legal for medical use only. Fewer than 8% said it shouldn’t be legal for use by adults.