Schumer: Senate Will Move Forward with Marijuana Legalization with or without Biden

POLITICS & POLICY
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer holds his weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol, December 17, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will “move forward” with legalizing marijuana with or without the support of President Biden, according to a new report.

In an interview with Politico this week, Schumer, who first introduced a bill to legalize marijuana in April 2018, indicated that though he will aim to get Biden on board with loosening federal restrictions that “at some point, we’re going to move forward, period.”

As majority leader, Schumer has set his sights on legalizing cannabis, joining Senators Cory Booker (D., N.J) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) in drafting new federal marijuana reform legislation.

However, Biden is one of the few remaining Democrats who have not endorsed legalization. 

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“We will move forward,” Biden said when asked what the Senate will do if Biden does not change his mind. “He said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

Asked what role Biden plays in the legislation and if he is concerned the president could veto the bill if it passed, Schumer said he respects that Biden has said he wants to “see more information on the issue.”

“I certainly will have an ongoing conversation with him, and tell him how my views evolved. And hope that his will too,” Schumer said.

The New York Democrat told Politico his own views on the topic changed years ago after speaking to residents in Denver who noted marijuana legalization “benefited the state” and didn’t hurt the state.

“There were tax revenues, but people had freedom to do what they wanted to do, as long as they weren’t hurting other people. That’s part of what America is about. And they were exultant in it,” he said.

He added that legalization on the state level in places such as Oregon and Colorado produced evidence that the “parade of horribles” that lawmakers feared would happen — mainly increases in crime and drug use — “never came about.”

“The legalization of states worked out remarkably well,“ he said. “They were a great success.”

“I think the American people started speaking with a clear message — more than two to one — that they want the law changed. When a state like South Dakota votes by referendum to legalize, you know something is out there,” he added.

Schumer’s comments come as his home state of New York on Wednesday became the fifteenth U.S. state to legalize cannabis usage, bringing the percentage of Americans who now live in states that have championed full legalization to more than 40 percent.

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