The top Senate Democrat is using marijuana’s informal holiday to announce a change of heart about the drug, another sign of the growing political acceptance of pot.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Friday he’ll introduce a bill taking marijuana off the federal list of controlled substances – in effect decriminalizing its use.
Instead, his bill would let states decide how to treat marijuana possession.
Schumer announced his change of position in an television appearance with VICE, pulling out a Sharpie to autograph a glass bong for the outlet’s DC bureau chief Shawna Thomas.
In the middle of a VICE interview on the subject of decriminalizing marijuana, New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer autographed a glass bong
Schumer wants to get the federal government out of the way of states that want to regulate cannabis instead of keeping it outlawed
The senator complains that the federal government lumps cannabis in with other ‘harder’ drugs like heroin and cocaine
‘If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?’ Schumer asks in the broadcast segment, airing Friday night.
Schumer favors federal-government policy that overrides states’ views on abortion, education policy and voter IDs, but has turned into a states’-rights crusader over weed
Under his proposed measure, the federal government would still enforce laws against moving pot into states where it’s illegal, and would still regulate advertising so it isn’t aimed at children.
‘My thinking, as well as the general population’s views, on the issue has evolved,’ Schumer said.
He wrote in a thread on Twitter that the federal government should ‘allow states, once and for all, to have the power to decide what works best for them.’
‘I have long believed that states should function as their own laboratories of democracy.’
That states’-rights position stands in contrast to his views on other subjects, including education policy, voter ID laws and abortion.
Schumer endorsed decriminalizing pot on April 20, an unofficial marijuana holiday
Schumer, the Senate minority leader, dropped his bombshell on Twitter on Friday morning
But his chief complaint has to do with how marijuana is lumped in with what are usually considered ‘harder’ drugs.
‘[U]nder existing law,’ Schumer tweeted, ‘the federal government considers marijuana as dangerous as heroin and treats it less favorably than cocaine. That has to change.’
The New York Democrat said he also wants to ensure that minorities and women have a fair shot at getting involved in the growing marijuana industry – and that the federal government invests in research.
Nine states and the District of Columbia now allow recreational use of marijuana, and 30 allow the use of cannabis in some form for medical purposes.
Schumer’s bill will face stiff opposition from congressional Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan (right)
Americans’ support for marijuana legalization has been growing in polls with Gallup’s most recent update in October showing that 64 percent of Americans were in favor of legalization.
The White House said last week that President Donald Trump backs legislation to protect the marijuana industry in states where it is legal.
But Schumer told VICE that he has ‘seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail, much too long.’
‘Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom.’
Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner also announced recently that he had changed his stance on marijuana and that he would promote its nationwide legalization as a way to help veterans cope with medical problems, and to ease the nation’s deadly opioid crisis.