Schumer, Sanders Rollout Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) introduced a bill Wednesday to remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances.

Schumer's bill, co-sponsored by Senate colleagues Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), Tim Kaine (D., Va.) and Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.), follows up on the minority leader's promise back in April to propose such legislation. Then, the sexagenarian Schumer signed a bong as part of an interview with Vice News, a site known for its marijuana-laced coverage and considered massively uncool by teens.

The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act would remove marijuana from its current listing as a schedule I drug, a category which includes those "drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." Taking marijuana off of the federal schedule of controlled substances means that federal law enforcement—namely the Drug Enforcement Agency—will no longer arrest marijuana traffickers, effectively decriminalizing the drug at the federal level.

In so doing, the bill would devolve responsibility for decision-making about marijuana to the states; it would preserve federal law enforcement's ability to stop the interstate trafficking of marijuana from states where the drug is legal to ones where it is not. President Donald Trump has signaled that he will back a similar marijuana devolution proposal by Sens. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

In addition to devolution, Schumer's proposal would also create diversity grants to fund woman- and minority-owned marijuana businesses; induce states and cities to expunge marijuana possession convictions; and allocate $750 million to research on marijuana's medical and social impact and on reducing incidences of marijuana-impaired driving. The latter may have risen in those states which have legalized marijuana.

The bill earned plaudits from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a pro-legalization group.

"This bill is a welcomed shift of policy from Democratic party leadership. At a time when 68 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, including outright majorities of Democrats (77 percent), Independents (62 percent), and Republicans (57 percent), it is time for ending federal prohibition to become a truly bipartisan issue," NORML political director Justin Strekal said.

The impact of marijuana-decriminalization is as-of-yet unclear. The increase in marijuana-impaired driving is one effect; another is the effect that legalization has had on Mexican cartels, which have seen their revenues from marijuana dry up. This in turn may have encouraged a switch to harder drugs, like heroin and meth, thus indirectly fueling America's drug crisis.

Charles Fain Lehman

Charles Fain Lehman   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Fain Lehman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He writes about policy, covering crime, law, drugs, immigration, and social issues. Reach him on twitter (@CharlesFLehman) or by email at lehman@freebeacon.com.

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