Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Politico this week the Senate will push marijuana reform legislation, even without President Biden’s support.
In the interview with Politico, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that while he and others will make a case to President Biden for marijuana law reforms, the 46th president’s hesitation will not stop the legislation. “I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will,” Schumer told the outlet. “But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”
Schumer asserted the last decade of state marijuana legalization efforts has proven his position. “In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved,” Schumer said.
“When a few of the early states — Oregon and Colorado — wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” he continued.
However, Schumer said, “the legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.”
President Biden has lagged behind many of his fellow Democrats in support of changes to existing marijuana restrictions. Even so, recent years have seen him soften on the issue. During his presidential campaign in May 2020, in a conversation on The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne tha’ God, Biden stressed a position of decriminalizing — not legalizing — the drug.
Moreover, the president said, no one should be imprisoned for drug offenses. “No one should be going to jail for drug crime. Period. Nobody. Nobody. No matter what the crime,” Biden said. “You should go to a mandatory rehabilitation. It costs less to put people in a drug rehabilitation program than it does in jail,” he continued. “And you have a chance. You’ve got to give people a chance!”
Biden deferred a question about the difference between decriminalization and full legalization. “We should wait until the studies are done, and I think science matters,” he said at the time.
It is clear, however, the administration will have to reckon with the issue soon. In February, the White House issued guidelines about marijuana usage to more easily fill positions, this occurring after “transition officials quickly identified recreational marijuana use as a potential hurdle for applicants, especially younger ones, in meeting that requirement.”
Schumer declined to discuss the details of a bill he has partnered with fellow Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden to present “soon.” Schumer did affirm he is “personally for legalization,” saying the bill “is headed in that direction.”