The Slatest

Schumer: Senate Will “Move Forward” on Marijuana Legalization Regardless of Biden’s Position

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 2021.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 2021. Pool/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is ready to use the weight of his office to push for marijuana to be legalized across the country. After New York decided to legalize marijuana earlier this week, Schumer said he is hopeful that President Joe Biden will end up coming around on the issue. But regardless of whether that happens, “at some point we’re going to move forward, period,” the senator from New York told Politico. Schumer, who first introduced a marijuana legalization bill in 2018, said he’s working with Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon on legislation.

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Schumer so far isn’t offering any details on what the legislation might include—“you’ll have to wait and see,” he said—but he did describe it as a “comprehensive bill.” Once that is introduced, Schumer has vowed to sit down with people who object the move to see how they could get on board. Schumer said he is “personally for legalization” and specified that “the bill that we’ll be introducing is headed in that direction.” Schumer shared the Politico interview on Twitter and said he’s working “to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and to repair the damage done by the War on Drugs.”

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Schumer appears optimistic Biden’s thinking on the issue may evolve considering more than 40 percent of  Americans live in states that have approved legalization. “I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will,” Schumer said of Biden. For the majority leader, there’s a good argument on how state efforts to legalize marijuana have gone. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well,“ he said. “They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom.”

Schumer said that his thinking on the issue started to change when he talked to “average folks” in Denver about the issue and saw how people felt legalization helped the state with additional tax revenue and didn’t hurt anyone. “People had freedom to do what they wanted to do, as long as they weren’t hurting other people,” Schumer said. “That’s part of what America is about.”

Under the Republican-controlled Senate, the issue never really went anywhere but now lawmakers would be forced to make their views clear, which could put many in an uncomfortable position considering more than two-thirds of Americans now support marijuana legalization.

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