Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he and a group of senators are working on a final draft of a bill to reform the nation’s federal cannabis laws.
Majority Leader Schumer wrote in a Dear Colleague letter provided to PoliticusUSA:
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that states are America’s laboratories of democracy. When it comes to reforming the nation’s antiquated cannabis laws, he couldn’t have been more right.
Since 2010, 37 states have legalized the medical use of cannabis, and 18 states have legalized both medical and adult use. This includes a broad cross-section of states governed by both Republicans and Democrats. States that are very different from our own, like Alaska, Montana, Arizona, and others, have followed Colorado, Washington, and Oregon in reforming their outdated cannabis laws. Even voters in as conservative a state as South Dakota have shown their support for legalization. This is an issue of individual liberty and basic fairness that clearly cuts across party lines. However, one major obstacle remains in the way of states’ ability to make their own decisions about cannabis: the continued prohibition of marijuana at the federal level.
As more and more states move to legalize cannabis for both adult and medical use, the federal government has an important role to play. Hundreds of millions of Americans live in states that have legalized cannabis in some form while it remains illegal at the federal level. This discrepancy creates confusion and uncertainty and raises important questions about criminal justice reform, economic development and small business growth, and public health and safety, all of which we believe require some type of federal response. That’s why the three of us put forward a comprehensive cannabis reform framework in the form of a discussion draft of the Cannabis Stewardship and Opportunity Act (Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that he and a group of senators are working on a final draft of a bill to reform the nation’s federal cannabis laws (CAOA) last year.This bill is intended to right the wrongs of the past and ensure that the government match the progress made in states across the country.
This issue, which we believe the Senate is long overdue in addressing, has implications for many areas of American politics and policy. Following the publication of the CAOA discussion draft, we received more than 1,800 comments from a wide range of stakeholders, many with substantive and detailed policy recommendations. In the coming weeks, we will continue the work of incorporating this feedback, as our goal is to soon introduce legislation that is as comprehensive and reflects as many relevant viewpoints and voices as possible.
We are writing to you today to invite you into the drafting process as we work to finalize this legislation. In order to properly address such a nuanced topic, we respectfully request the input, advice, and guidance of relevant committee chairs and ranking members, as well as senators who have faced the challenges and realities of legalization in their own states. We would greatly appreciate your willingness to share your experience at the intersections between your committee jurisdictions, your states’ experiences, and comprehensive cannabis reform, and invite you to join the process of refining this legislation. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic with you in the coming weeks.
Legalization and decriminalization of cannabis is happening across the country
Federal laws are woefully out of step with states and localities on cannabis. The decriminalization and legalization movement is happening in places large and small across the United States. Current federal laws are outdated and the conflict generated by the difference in statutes at each level of government creates confusion and slows down reform.
State and local governments need to update the federal government on their progress on this issue.
It will be interesting to see if the Senate can get 60 votes to advance a cannabis reform bill because there is bipartisan support for letting states choose their own policies, but it is unclear if President Biden will sign the bill because he supports decriminalization, but not legalization.
The House has already approved its version of the bill, which Schumer has made a legislative priority in the Senateand with the presidentbracing for a string of bipartisan victories, cannabis reform is getting closer to becoming a reality.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a member of the White House Press Group and Congressional Correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a BA in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, specializing in social reform movements.
Professional Awards and Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Political Science Association