Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced at a press conference Friday that he intends to formally introduce his long-awaited bill to legalize marijuana federally. in April. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who also spoke, discussed the progress of his separate legalization bill.
The two top lawmakers detailed their efforts to end the ban at an event in New York, which also involved House Small Business Committee Chair Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), lawmakers and New York advocates with the Drug Policy Alliance and other organizations.
Friday turned out to be a particularly turbulent day for federal cannabis policy, with the House earlier passing a sweeping bill containing the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. This is the sixth time reform has cleared the chamber in one form or another.
“In the coming weeks, we are stepping up our outreach efforts and plan to present the final legislation. Our goal is to do it in April,” Schumer said at the New York event. “Next, we begin the national campaign, led by New York, to pass the federal law. As Majority Leader, I can set priorities. It is a priority for me. »
I have stood with an extraordinary group of organizers, advocates, and legislators to renew our work in the Senate for full federal legalization of marijuana.
We must bring the spirit of New York’s revolutionary legalization and right the wrongs of the War on Drugs. pic.twitter.com/C9eyenSqA1
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 4, 2022
Advocates were encouraged when Schumer first released details of his Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), which he unveiled as a draft for public comment in July, but they became impatient with his repeated comments over the months since an official introduction has been made available soon.” Now he has set a target timeline, and the leader also said separately in a meeting with activists that he will expects committee hearings on the proposal shortly after its final tabling.
“Right now, we’re taking those comments [on the draft version] and reaching out to Democratic and Republican senators,” Schumer said, adding that “we have some Republican support.” It’s unclear if he’s indicating there will be GOP co-sponsors on the bill itself or if he’s referring to general support from voters and some lawmakers across all parties for ending the bill. the ban.
“If any senators have any other ideas they want to add to the bill, as long as it keeps social and economic justice at the forefront, we are happy and ready to listen,” he said.
As Majority Leader, I can set priorities
Full federal legalization of marijuana with justice for communities hardest hit by the war on drugs, especially communities of color, is a Senate priority
With marijuana justice, people are on our side. We will move forward. pic.twitter.com/gtt6YVpHHG
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 4, 2022
Even if committee hearings begin quickly after an introduction in April, it seems very unlikely that he will pass and make it to the president’s office by the unofficial 4/20 cannabis holiday, as Schumer said he wanted to see happen in a speech in the Senate last April 20.
Schumer, Nadler, several New York lawmakers also argued at Friday’s event that while New York’s legalization law, which is being actively implemented, should serve as a model for the country, overall fairness will not will only be feasible once the federal ban is lifted.
Earlier today, I attended a press conference on marijuana justice with Senator Charles Schumer, RWDSU, the Drug Policy Alliance and others. pic.twitter.com/09NdVJ9X2y
— Senator Diane Savino (@dianesavino) February 4, 2022
“We want to renew the case for comprehensive marijuana reform that reverses the damage of the war on drugs at the federal level, using the great work that has been done here in New York as an example and a way to lead” , Schumer said, adding that “just because we have state law, federal law always creates problems, and that’s why one of the many reasons we need to change it.”
The Majority Leader’s office has been involved in negotiations with advocates and stakeholders, both over its legalization measure as well as the SAFE Banking Act, which it has been accused of blocking as part of of a separate defense bill late last year.
The chief and his colleagues have been pushing to pass full legalization before the bank, but the banking bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), told Marijuana Moment Friday that after engaging in conversations with the leader’s office, there could be a way forward to move his legislation forward in both houses with equity-focused amendments that Schumer wants to see.
Regarding Schumer’s legalization bill, the Senate leader stressed late last year that he wanted to keep the “big boys” out of the marijuana industry in favor of the creating opportunities for small operators when cannabis is legalized federally, and he said his next bill would accomplish that.
“We don’t want the big boys coming in,” he said at the time. “After all the pain that’s happened in communities like the one you represent in Brooklyn, where I’m from, bringing in the big boys and making all the money doesn’t make sense.”
He has made similar remarks in the past, pointing out that his reform bill will take specific steps to restrict the ability of big alcohol and tobacco companies to overtake the industry.
Nadler, meanwhile, on Friday discussed his Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Clearance (MORE) Act, which would also end federal prohibition and promote social equity in the industry like the CAOA. That bill passed the House in a historic first last session, and it reauthorized Nadler’s Judiciary Committee in September.
“The War on Drugs – and in particular the criminalization of marijuana – has been a failure that has unleashed untold suffering for millions of Americans, especially in minority communities,” Nadler said. “I’m proud to be here with Senator Schumer, and the many other lawmakers and advocates with us today, who are leading the way in reforming our laws and bringing justice to those who have been wronged by these unjust policies. and destructive.”
States have led the way in reforming our laws, including here in New York, but as long as there is a conflict with our federal laws, we must address this issue at the national level.
It is time for us to act and right the wrongs caused by the failure of the war on drugs.
– Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) February 4, 2022
Also at the event, Velazquez spoke about the importance of ending prohibition, as well as opening the resources of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to marijuana businesses.
It is time for the federal government to adapt to the times. pic.twitter.com/2GcutuvCJ1
— Representative Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) February 4, 2022
“Change won’t happen, change won’t come, unless we demand it,” the MP said. “And because we demanded it, public opinion changed dramatically. It is therefore time for the government to act, especially the federal government.
Dan Goldman contributed reporting from New York.
Marijuana Banking sponsor says it’s in amendment talks with Senate leader as House passes reform for sixth time
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.