After two months of hype, the much-ballyhooed cannabis law reform bill from New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) has finally been introduced. Last week The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act was unveiled and, among other things, it would decriminalize cannabis on the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act.
“The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” Senator Schumer said in a statement. “The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans – especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use- the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy. This legislation is simply the right thing to do and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). According to the statement from Senator Schumer’s office, the new legislation “also takes steps to help communities that have been disproportionately affected by our current marijuana laws. The bill includes authorization of grant programs designed to encourage states and local governments to allow individuals to seal or expunge marijuana possession conviction records, and it creates a new funding stream to help ensure that women and minority entrepreneurs have access to the new marijuana industries in their states.”
“The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is comprehensive legislation that would end our nation’s failed 80-year prohibition of marijuana and allow states to implement reforms free from the threat of federal interference,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.
“The importance of this bill’s emphasis on facilitating the expungement the criminal records of individuals for marijuana possession cannot be overstated. Millions of individuals have suffered from the lifelong collateral consequences of criminal prohibition, making it harder for them to find a job, obtain housing, and access higher education.”
How far this legislation will go remains to be seen, but having four Senators on board – including the influential Schumer and the popular Sanders – is a good start.
In any case, the debate about marijuana legalization has finally arrived full bore onto Capitol Hill. It’s being talked about by federal officials and even President Trump himself. If you want to add your voice to the discussion, you can do so through this handy portal from NORML that allows you to contact your federal representatives.