Just in time for 4/20, an annual celebration for marijuana users, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced he would introduce legislation to decriminalize the substance at the federal level.
“The time has come to decriminalize marijuana,” Leader Schumer said in a press release. “My thinking – as well as the general population’s views – on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done. It’s simply the right thing to do.”
In addition to the public’s changing views on weed, Schumer also cited the unfair ways communities of color have been prosecuted for drug-related crimes as one reason he’s now in favor of decriminalizing the substance.
“A staggering number of American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are African-American and Latino, continue to be arrested every day for something that most Americans agree should not be a crime,” he wrote on Medium. “Meanwhile, those who are entering into the marijuana market in states that have legalized are set to make a fortune. This is not only misguided, but it undermines the basic principles of fairness and equal opportunity that are foundational to the American way of life.”
Recreational marijuana is currently legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, while 29 states have laws allowing the drug for medicinal use. However, despite the growing number of jurisdictions that permit some form of marijuana use, back in January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memo that allowed states to legalize the substance without federal involvement. According to CBS News, Session made “it clear that marijuana possession and distribution is against federal law” and directed U.S. attorneys to prosecute it accordingly.
The change injected uncertainty into the growing push to decriminalize marijuana, and Schumer said his bill would remove the threat of imprisonment while also benefiting minority entrepreneurs.
“This legislation would let the states be the laboratories that they should be, ensure that woman and minority owned business have a fair shot in the marijuana industry, invests in critical research on THC, and ensures that advertisers can’t target children – it’s a balanced approach,” he said.