Minority Leader Pledges to Advance Marijuana Descheduling Legislation if Democrats Take Control of the U.S. Senate

Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to advance legislation to remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act in a Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate.

In remarks made earlier this week, Schumer said that he “will put [legislation] in play” if the Democrats gain majority control of the Senate. Specifically, Schumer spoke of the prospects of advancing legislation he has co-sponsored, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which deschedules cannabis and provides grant funding to encourage states to review and expunge past marijuana convictions. “I think we’ll have a good chance to pass that [legislation,]” he said.

House leadership has pledged to hold a floor vote on separate descheduling legislation, the Marijuana, Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, shortly following the election. If voted, the measure is anticipated to pass. Members of the House on three separate occasions have passed legislation to permit banks and other financial institutions to partner with state-licensed marijuana businesses, but the Senate has failed to take up the issue. Senate leadership has also killed amendments that sought to expand medical cannabis access to military veterans.

Senator Schumer added: “I’m a big fighter for racial justice, and the marijuana laws have been one of the biggest examples of racial injustice, and so to change them makes sense. And that fits in with all of the movement now to bring equality in the policing, in economics and in everything else. Our bill is, in a certain sense, at the nexus of racial justice, individual freedom and states’ rights.”

In a recent interview with the marijuana-themed website Leafly.com, Sen. Schumer made similar comments, promising, “My commitment is that if I am leader [of the US Senate], I am going to do everything I can to put the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act on the floor of the Senate. The odds are very high it will pass.”

In response to Sen. Schumer’s statements, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said: “The stark contrast among Senate party leaders on the issue of reforming our failed marijuana laws could not be any more dramatic. On one side of the aisle, you have Republican Leader McConnell – who refuses to act on even ancillary reforms such as the SAFE Banking Act. On the other hand, you have Democratic Leader Schumer who now is eager to force the upper chamber to consider legislation ending the nation’s cruel experiment with marijuana criminalization. In short, the future of marijuana policy reform is on the ballot in every state with a Senate race.”