Senate Bill Tackles Marijuana Legalization (VIDEO)

The Senate is taking on cannabis reform for the first time, but significant hurdles remain in changing federal marijuana laws.

Proponents of marijuana reform hoped change was on the horizon when Democrats took control of the House and Senate after the 2020 election.

“I rise today to support this urgent legislation that will help pave the way for racial and economic justice,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

But well over a year after the new Congress was sworn in, significant hurdles remain in changing federal marijuana laws that have disproportionately affected people of color.

“It’s ridiculous that at this point, where most people live in a state that has decriminalized marijuana to some extent, that Congress is still far behind where people are,” said Maritza Perez, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Earlier this month, the House again passed the More Act – a sweeping bill to decriminalize marijuana and erase prior criminal records that has been approved in previous years.

And the Senate will soon receive its own bill – which Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to introduce by August.

“Finally, we are taking action in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. I was the first Democratic leader to speak out for the legalization of marijuana and I will use my influence as Chief of majority to make it a priority,” Schumer said.

Although the two bills are similar, the Senate bill would legalize and regulate cannabis sales, which the More Act does not.

“It seems that things depend on the Senate bill, just because there is no More law in the Senate, there is no mate in the Senate. I think the Senate bill will actually be the vehicle for the legalization of marijuana,” Perez said.

Although the House has passed the More Act several times, this is the first time the Senate will have to address the issue of cannabis reform, and it’s unclear whether the bill will get the 60 votes needed to pass it. pass — with many Republicans still worried. the potential negative impacts of legal marijuana.

“I think what we’ll see is that a lot of Democrats will automatically support because they understand this is about racial justice, civil rights, and they understand that the war on drugs has to stop, and that’s part of the war on drugs. But I don’t think that’s the case for all senators,” Perez said.

Some GOP lawmakers favor a more incremental approach to marijuana reform.

Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace sponsored the States Reform Act. The bill would decriminalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol, but leave it up to states to decide whether or not to allow legal sales. But that does not include the social justice programs set out in the More Act.

Advocates like Perez say an issue as big as marijuana reform needs a big fix.

“The War on Drugs has impacted so many facets of people’s lives that we need an equally comprehensive solution,” Perez said.

Norman D. Briggs