WASHINGTON — VICE reported on Thursday that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has endorsed ending the federal prohibition on marijuana. The senator will sign legislation removing cannabis from the DEA controlled substances list and providing appropriate funds for marijuana research and minority cannabis-business owners. The new bill will be introduced in less than a week.
The bill doesn't call for legalization outright. Instead, it would allow states to decide marijuana policy within the states themselves. The bill tasks the federal government with overseeing and regulating marijuana like alcohol and tobacco as a means to protect children from commercial advertisers.
Sen. Schumer personally supports legalization but has only supported medical marijuana in the past. He told MSNBC in 2014 that legalization was a tough issue that he was cautious about, adding that he was not a prohibitionist.
Schumer Says Federal Law Needs to Change
Schumer now says that federal drug policy regarding marijuana needs to change, adding that people should be free to do what they want and that ending prohibition is the right thing to do.
He told VICE, "If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else, why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?" Sen. Schumer sent out a tweet explaining his reversal on the matter, saying "People can change" as a preview to the VICE interview.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also signed onto legislation in support of ending the federal prohibition on marijuana when he cosponsored The Marijuana Justice Act introduced last August by Cory Booker (D-NJ). The announcement came earlier on Thursday just ahead of Schumer's announcement.
A noticeable shift towards marijuana legalization by politicians could be indicative of public acceptance of marijuana legalization as well as enthusiasm for the amount of money to be made from the industry. Forbes reported that the global marijuana market will be worth $57 billion in less than 10 years, and 64 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
The senator said that people's lives have been ruined and that it was morally right to end the federal prohibition, adding that benefiting from legalization was not his motive for the legislation. Schumer still advocates for states' rights on marijuana policy, saying it is best for states to decide policy locally, adding that he would support legalization in New York.
The bill will also set aside funds for medical research on the effects of marijuana overall, including the drug's effect on driving impairment.