Schumer Hosts First Formal Meeting on Legalizing Weed as VA GOP Opposes Legalization

Key Democratic Senate leaders held a meeting with marijuana stakeholders on Friday, the first formal step toward crafting a new bill to federally legalize cannabis.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey heard from a group of advocates and stakeholders from the cannabis industry as they prepare to draft reform legislation “in the early part of this year.”

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The senators released a joint (pun intended?) statement announcing the plan earlier this week that decried the failures of marijuana criminalization and called for a federal policy change that prioritizes repairing the harms of prohibition. Getting input from stakeholders is part of that process, they said.

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color,” they said. “Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.”

One commitment from the start, according to attendees, is that the Senate bill will at a minimum deschedule cannabis and seek to regulate it with a justice- and equity-focused approach. Booker is expected to be the lead sponsor of the legislation when it is filed, and it will likely be referred to Wyden’s committee.

Although President Joe Biden does not support full legalization and only backs relatively modest cannabis reforms, advocates are hopeful that he would not veto or seek to undermine any broad marijuana legislation that congressional leaders decide to prioritize. Schumer pressed Biden’s attorney general and other Justice Department nominees to respect the rights of states that legalize marijuana.

Already in 2021, several congressional marijuana bills have already been filed: one to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, another to prevent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from denying veterans benefits solely because they use medical marijuana in compliance with state law and one to allow hemp-derived CBD to be marketed and sold as a dietary supplement. But not everyone is excited by the idea of federally legal weed, despite the obvious boosts to local economies in states where it’s already been legalized, such as Washington, Oregon, and Colorado.

Decriminalizing marijuana will also help solve the issue of prison overcrowding, but you can’t tell that to the Virginia GOP. Despite the passing of the bill to legalize weed in the state, some lawmakers are still trying to argue against it and failing miserably. Twitter users were more than happy to teach Senator Amanda Chase about the truths of the wacky tabacky.

The senators didn’t go in-depth into the details of the forthcoming reform proposal, but they signaled that they would incorporate feedback from these organizations and others as they move forward.

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