WASHINGTON – The change in Senate leadership means the increased potential for a number of policy areas to be addressed, including cannabis policy reform.
With Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) now the first head of the upper chamber ever to publicly support ending federal marijuana prohibition, he’s made several commitments on multiple occasions to advance legislation to repeal the federal criminalization of cannabis. Further, he has previously introduced his own stand-alone legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which strikes cannabis from the list of banned controlled substances and laid the groundwork for the creation of the House-passed The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE).
But Schumer is not alone in his support for repealing federal cannabis prohibition. In fact, multiple Democratic Senate lawmakers previously introduced legislation to remove the marijuana plant from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. These efforts include Sens. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) The Marijuana Justice Act, Tina Smith’s (D-Minn.) The Substance Regulation and Safety Act and Bernie Sanders’ The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.
With the majority-making Georgia Senators both favoring the end of marijuana criminalization, it only increases the political pressure for action in this Congress.
Compare this to the reality of the 116th Congress, when similar efforts were dead on arrival under then-Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In fact, McConnell never even permitted these marijuana prohibitions to be debated in committee, much less provided a pathway for a vote. This will certainly not be the case in the new Senate, with key cannabis reform champions occupying critical positions on key committees.
You can read and share NORML Political Director Justin Strekal’s recent op-ed in The Hill Newspaper entitled What the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform for more context on what is possible in the Senate this Congress.
Justin Strekal is the political director for NORML, where he serves as an advocate to end the federal criminalization of marijuana and to reform our nation’s laws to no longer unduly discriminate against its consumers in various aspects of their lives.