Schumer prioritizing federal cannabis legalization in reform effort with two other U.S. senators

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On February 1, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer formally announced a plan to advance cannabis reform. Schumer made the announcement alongside Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden. 

Back in January, New York Democrat Schumer declared his plans to fight for legislation in 2021 that would essentially legalize the green plant on a federal basis. He also clarified his intentions to enable states the privilege of choosing their own cannabis laws.

“We will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” the three Senators announced in a joint statement. 

Schumer, New Jersey Democrat Booker and Oregon Democrat Wyden went on to say that stakeholder group opinions “will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.” Separately, the trio have advocated for cannabis legalization on numerous occasions in the past.

Democratic control of Congress could prompt cannabis legalization

According to investment analysts who have their eye on the cannabis space, the fact that Democrats now control both chambers of the U.S. Congress means that legalization efforts are likely to be spurred on much faster than if Republicans assumed control. Nonetheless, the road ahead is not without its speed bumps. 

For example, federal restrictions make it difficult to conduct thorough research into the plant’s medicinal properties and therefore until the safety of cannabis is proven, legalizing it will be a tricky feat. On the other hand, Oregon Democrat and co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer recently said in a statement that he feels optimistic about the three Senators’ efforts. 

Blumenauer noted that he feels things are moving in the right direction now that Democrats are in control, since previous cannabis reform efforts were obstructed by Kentucky Republican and former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He added that The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE Act), which was approved by the U.S. House in December of last year, is a “great foundation” for cannabis reform legislation.

“We look forward to working with the Senate to refine the bill, advance its core principles, and end the federal prohibition of cannabis once and for all. The missing ingredient in cannabis reform has been Senate action,” Blumenauer said, adding that, “to finally have the active leadership of the new Senate majority leader, rather than being stuck in McConnell’s legislative graveyard, makes all the difference in the world.”

Trio hold first meeting regarding U.S. cannabis reform proposal 

On Friday, February 5, the three key U.S. Senate leaders hosted a meeting that stretched over one hour. The meeting was considered to be the first official step in developing a bill for federal cannabis legalization. Attendees included employees from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, NORML and various other institutions with connections to the Marijuana Justice Coalition. 

During the all-important meeting, which also saw groups like the National Cannabis Industry Association and Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) in attendance, Schumer, Wyden and Booker listened to opinions from a group of cannabis proponents and interested stakeholders. Together, the Senators vow to unveil draft reform legislation “in the early part of this year.” 

Examples of the topics discussed included cannabis tax policies, social equity plans and regulatory framework. Moving forwards, the trio say that they will use feedback to tweak and enhance the impending reform proposal.