In a move with huge potential implications, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate minority leader, said earlier today that he plans to introduce a bill to deschedule cannabis nationwide. More powerful than decriminalization, descheduling cannabis would get the federal government out of the cannabis prohibition business altogether.
“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.”
In an exclusive interview with Vice News, Schumer said his forthcoming bill will have four main points:
- Remove cannabis from the DEA’s list of controlled substances. This would end federal prohibition and leave the regulation of cannabis up to individual states.
- Create funding for minority and women-owned cannabis businesses
- Provide money for research into cannabis, with a focus on its effect on driving impairment
- Maintain federal authority over cannabis advertising, in the same way the federal government regulates alcohol and tobacco ads.
The full interview will air tonight at 7:30 on Vice News Tonight on HBO.
BREAKING: Senator Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) changes position and says he will submit a bill aimed at decriminalizing marijuana. See the exclusive interview on VICE News Tonight at 7:30PM on @HBO pic.twitter.com/2FvF7IvMQS
— VICE News (@vicenews) April 19, 2018
Because Schumer hasn’t actually released the contents of the bill, it still isn’t clear how exactly his bill differs in any significant way from Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act. That Act also removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, creates funding for people of color and communities hardest hit by the war on drugs, and provides money for research. As Schumer was going live with Vice today, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced that he had joined as a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act.
Legalize New York, Already
On another note, Schumer told Vice that he supports the legalization of cannabis in his home state of New York. “My personal view is legalization is just fine,” he said in the interview. “The best thing to do is let each state decide on its own.”
Many in cannabis political circles have called on leaders in both parties to embrace cannabis legalization as a winning issue, especially among voters under 65.
Many in cannabis political circles have called on leaders in both parties to embrace cannabis legalization as a winning issue, especially among voters under 65. Schumer’s proposed bill, and his public support for legalization in New York, could be a trial balloon for other Democrats looking for ways to distinguish themselves in this fall’s midterm elections.
Schumer told Vice that he isn’t looking ahead to November. “I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined by the criminalization. If we benefit, so be it. But that’s not my motivation.”
Last week Cynthia Nixon, the actress and leading Democratic challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, sent out a series of tweets strongly advocating cannabis legalization, something that Cuomo has famously resisted. Earlier this week, Cuomo made a sweeping move to re-enfranchise formerly incarcerated voters, allowing them to cast a ballot while on parole. That move was widely seen as a reaction to Nixon’s growing profile and popularity.
Schumer, meanwhile, was asked by Vice if he’d ever sampled the product. The senator said no, but added that me might give it a go. “I’m a little old,” he said, “but who knows?”