In an interview with VICE News Thursday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced he is sponsoring a bill that would “decriminalize” marijuana at the federal level and provide support for minority entrepreneurs in states where it has been legalized.
For Schumer, this is a shift. While he has backed medical marijuana and the rights of states to experiment with legal sales of pot, what he is proposing is a seismic shift in federal drug policy .
“Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” Schumer said.
What would Schumer’s bill accomplish?
- The measure would de-schedule marijuana, removing it from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances and leaving regulation up to the states.
- Schumer’s bill calls for the creation of funding to assist minority and women owners of marijuana businesses.
- Funding would also be earmarked for research into the effects of marijuana, specifically regarding driving impairment.
- And the bill would “maintain federal authority to regulate marijuana advertising in the same way it does alcohol and tobacco,” to protect children from being targeted by ads.
The New York Democrat is not the first of his party to support the decriminalization or outright legalization of marijuana:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has long been a proponent of removing marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) recently introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which would federally legalize weed. Republicans, who still control Congress, haven’t been as open to the idea, though recent polls have shown a majority of party members now favor legalization.