Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to make marijuana decriminalization a priority but his bill faces steep odds in the chamber, The New York Times reports.
Schumer’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would remove marijuana from the list of drugs in the Controlled Substances Act and allow the federal government to regulate and tax sales.
The bill would allow states to continue to determine their own marijuana laws but would remove the risk of federal punishment for marijuana sellers and users.
The bill also calls to immediately expunge federal nonviolent marijuana arrests and convictions and would earmark funds to restorative justice programs to help communities impacted by “the failed federal prohibition of cannabis.”
“It’s not just an idea whose time has come; it’s long overdue,” Schumer said. “We have all seen the agony of a young person arrested with a small amount of marijuana in his or her pocket. And because of the historical over-criminalization of marijuana, they have a very severe criminal record they have to live with their whole lives.”
Bill faces major opposition:
The bill faces opposition from Republicans, who have long opposed marijuana decriminalization, but Schumer’s own party is likely to pose an obstacle as well.
President Joe Biden has not endorsed Schumer’s bill and moderate Democrats are “likely to balk at the implications of decriminalizing a drug that has been policed and stigmatized for so long,” according to the Times.
Schumer’s bill is co-sponsored by New Jersey. Sen. Cory Booker and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden.
Federal marijuana tax?
The bill would allow marijuana businesses in states where it is legal to use the banking system and claim federal tax deductions but it also means a higher tax on marijuana products.
The bill would raise the federal excise tax on marijuana as high as 25% for large businesses, which would be a boon for federal coffers after marijuana sales hit $20 billion in 2020.
The funds would be used to help communities impacted by the war on drugs and drug use.
“The hypocrisy of this is that right here in the Capitol now people running for Congress, people running for Senate, people running for president of the United States readily admit that they’ve used marijuana,” Booker said. “But we have children in this country, people all over this country — our veterans, Black and brown people, low-income people — now bearing the stain of having a criminal conviction for doing things that half of the last four presidents admit to doing.”