Top Democrats Push to Legalize Pot at Federal Level

They're calling for an end to prohibition
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2021 11:36 AM CDT
Senate Democrats Push to Make Pot Legal Federally
Jake Crisco, general manager of the Green Leaf Medical Cannibis facility, holds a mature bud of marijuana at the company's plant in Richmond, Va., on June 17.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Top Senate Democrats have unveiled draft legislation to legalize marijuana, remove federal penalties, and erase nonviolent federal cannabis-related criminal records. The proposal from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, and Sen. Cory Booker, dubbed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, would remove marijiuana, now fully legal in 18 states, from the federal list of controlled substances and allow states to decide whether to prohibit its possession, production, and distribution. It would also establish funding for federal research on the drug, including its involvement in traffic deaths and its impacts on the brain. This should please Republican lawmakers who’ve voiced concerns about related public health concerns, per Politico. But there are also provisions supported by progressive Democrats.

For instance, the proposal would create three grant programs meant to assist communities of color and the poor affected by the War on Drugs, per the New York Times. And states and cities can only qualify for grant funding if they expunge prior cannabis offenses. "Cannabis prohibition, a key pillar of the failed War on Drugs, has caused substantial harm to our communities and small businesses, and especially for communities of color," Wyden says, per CBS News. Schumer says the expungement of records is especially important to Democrats. But that was one issue that caused Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair GOP Rep. Dave Joyce to vote against a similar bill that passed the House in December. Ten Republicans would need to join Democrats in voting in support of this latest proposal for it to clear 60 votes. (Read more marijuana stories.)

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