Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a joint statement Monday saying they would work together to advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation in the current Congress.
“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. 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,” they said. “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.”
All three senators have previously supported legislation to decriminalize cannabis in some form. Schumer co-sponsored legislation to decriminalize cannabis in 2018 and said in a recent interview that he was working on a new federal marijuana legalization bill that would let states decide what to do and would take tax revenues from marijuana and put them toward investing in minority communities.
“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies,” the statement from the three senators reads. “The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.”
It’s still not totally clear whether President Biden has prioritized marijuana reform, while he was once a leader in the War on Drugs of the 1980s and ’90s, he said during his presidential campaign that he would support rescheduling cannabis to make it legal.
During the last Congress, the House of Representatives passed the MORE Act, which would have legalized marijuana and expunged the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana-related crimes. The legislation died in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Wyden, who is now chairman of the Senate finance committee, said in November that he had a bill ready to go called the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, which outlines a taxation and regulation structure for marijuana products. And Booker introduced a bill in 2019 — the Marijuana Justice Act — to legalize marijuana on a national level, with a focus on expunging federal convictions for marijuana use and possession and reinvesting in communities hardest hit by the War on Drugs.
“In the early part of this year, we will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” the three senators said. “Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”
Update February 1st, 4:33PM ET: Added detail about the MORE Act and Sen. Booker’s legislation.