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Senate Introduces Federal Cannabis Legalization Bill

Ed Knight

By Ed Knight

July 25, 2022

Growers inspect cannabis flowers cannabis plants and hemp inflorescences in greenhouses for inspection and quality control for medicinal purposes farms in greenhouses. medical cannabis cultivation

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The anticipation is over: Democrats in the Senate have finally introduced their long-awaited cannabis

bill. 

the legislation would decriminalize cannabis and deschedule it from the Controlled Substances Act — the federal law that has enshrined the prohibition on pot. It would also “provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs,” and “provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses, and for other purposes.” 

The bill, introduced last Thursday, comes after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that also descheduled cannabis back in April. 

Following passage of the House’s bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he and two other Democratic members, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, would craft their own version of a legalization bill. 

The Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism, which Booker chairs, has

a hearing for next Thursday focused on decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level. 

The bill faces long odds in the Senate, where it will require 60 votes to pass and where Democrats and Republicans are divided 50-50. 

Expected Opposition to Federal Cannabis Legalization Bill

Most Republicans are expected to oppose the bill, and even some Democratic members of the Senate have expressed squeamishness over such sweeping cannabis reform. 

Then there is President Joe Biden, who has said that he supports decriminalization but not cannabis legalization. Earlier this week, Biden repeated his position that no one should be incarcerated for pot-related offenses. 

Still, the introduction of a cannabis legalization bill that is backed by Democratic leadership represents a significant moment for marijuana reform advocates.

“The official introduction of this bill to finally end the policy nightmare of federal marijuana prohibition is the culmination of unprecedented leadership in the Senate and engagement with stakeholders across the political spectrum,” said Morgan Fox, the political director of NORML,

. “We look forward to working with lawmakers to move this legislation toward passage and eagerly anticipate engaging in substantive conversations on all aspects of federal marijuana law with Senate members.”

It is also the fulfillment of a pledge made by Schumer after Democrats took power last year. 

“I want to make my arguments to [Biden], as many other advocates will,” Schumer told

in an interview. “But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.“

Schumer pointed to the success of new marijuana laws on the state-level as a proof of concept for the federal government, and noted the dramatic change in attitudes on the matter — in blue and red states, alike. 

“When a state like South Dakota votes by referendum to legalize, you know something is out there,” Schumer said, referring to the 2020 marijuana legalization measure approved by voters in South Dakota (and later overturned by the courts).

Schumer also said in the interview that his eagerness to bring the cannabis legalization bill up for a vote underscores the difference between the two parties.

“Probably the most important power of the majority leader is the ability to put bills on the floor. And the fact that I am introducing a bill, and the fact that people will know that there will be a vote on this sooner or later — that’s the big difference,” Schumer told

, noting that his counterpart, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, would never move forward with such legislation. 

“Even when states were for this, if McConnell wouldn’t bring the bill up, their senators were never challenged: ‘How are you going to vote?’ And they could say, ‘Well … I don’t know,’” Schumer

in the interview. “They don’t have to say anything. And so the fact that every member will know once we introduce this legislation — not only that it has my support, but that it will come to the floor for a vote — is going to help move things forward in a very strong way.”

Ed Knight

About The Author

Ed Knight

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.