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Top Senate Democrat introduces bill to decriminalize cannabis

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Another bill to decriminalize cannabis has been introduced in the Senate, this time from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act would take cannabis off of the Controlled Substances Act list of scheduled drugs, which would mean states would be free to legalize cannabis without federal interference.

“The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” Schumer said.

The bill goes further, though. It would also fund efforts to help women and people of color get into the cannabis industry, which is often said to be lacking women and people of color. Furthermore, it would fund highway safety efforts, regulate cannabis advertising, and help people with cannabis-related criminal records expunge those records.

“The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is comprehensive legislation that would end our nation’s failed 80-year prohibition of marijuana and allow states to implement reforms free from the threat of federal interference,” Justin Strekal, political director at NORML, told Cannabis News Box. “The importance of this bill’s emphasis on facilitating the expungement the criminal records of individuals for marijuana possession cannot be overstated. Millions of individuals have suffered from the lifelong collateral consequences of criminal prohibition, making it harder for them to find a job, obtain housing, and access higher education.”

Strekal said the majority of American people, across the political spectrum, support cannabis legalization, and it’s time for Congress to act. He said the bill is a “welcomed shift of policy from Democratic party leadership.”

It’s becoming clear that Democrats, and some Republicans, are ready for cannabis legalization. Another bill that would decriminalize cannabis, called the STATES Act, was recently introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). This bill would also go further than simply decriminalizing cannabis and would attempt to heal some of the wounds from the War on Drugs. That bill has some support in Congress and the support of President Trump, but it still hasn’t moved toward being passed.

“As more states, territories, and tribes thoughtfully consider updates to marijuana regulations, often through voter-initiated referendums, it is critical that Congress take immediate steps to safeguard their right to do so,” a statement from the senators reads.

It’s unclear when Congress will finally make a move on legalizing cannabis or decriminalizing it, but it is clear momentum is growing. It’s also becoming clear that this will be a major issue for voters leading up to the November elections.

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Top Senate Democrat introduces bill to decriminalize cannabis