Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised to pursue cannabis legalization if voters replaced Mitch McConnell, and it looks like he is going to attempt to follow through. Schumer announced that cannabis reform would be a piece of his economic and racial justice agenda and then stated that he would co-sponsor legalization legislation with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Oregon’s own Ron Wyden. Wyden, as Marijuana Moment reported, layed out the plan to have his Senate Finance Committee handle the cannabis reform agenda on The Source Weekly’s Bend Don’t Break podcast:
“This is a framework that I’ve championed, and I’ll be championing it as chairman,” he told The Source Weekly’s podcast Bend Don’t Break. “You do that and you take care of the banking question, you take care of the tax question, you take care of the research issue and this whole array of issues that have been gridlocked because the federal government on cannabis has been tethered to yesteryear. That has been the central problem.”
While Wyden didn’t point to any specific bills in the podcast interview, there are numerous pieces of legislation that could fall within his committee’s jurisdiction. That includes comprehensive proposals to federally legalize cannabis that would involve imposing excise taxes on marijuana sales, for example. The Senate version of a House-passed bill to deschedule marijuana and fund programs to repair the harms of the drug war was referred to Finance last session but died without a hearing or a vote under Republican leadership.
The new chairman said that “it’s not enough in my view to just end cannabis prohibition, I think we need to restore the lives of people who’ve been hurt most by the failed war on drugs and especially black Americans.”
If the United States Senate was a purely democratic institution, where a simple majority can always move legislation (I know, crazy), federal cannabis prohibition would end within the next two years. Unfortunately, the Senate’s quirky filibuster rule, which allows one senator to force 60 votes to pass a bill, could derail legalization and the will of the American people. With over 2/3 of Americans now wanting to end the war on cannabis, it’s time for Uncle Sam to act accordingly.