Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer from New York announced today that he is introducing a bill to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level. It’s good timing to make the announcement, considering that today is 4/20, the unofficial holiday for marijuana. The bill is not about legalization but rather gives states the right to decide whether marijuana could be sold commercially. Also, the bill removes marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs, according to NPR.
If the bill passes, it is good news for marijuana businesses across the country. Previously, Attorney General Jeff Sessions voided an Obama memorandum to not aggressively prosecute marijuana-related charges. This meant that those in the industry were left wondering if they would be forced to shut down their businesses and whether they could face criminal charges. The Washington Post described Schumer’s thought process behind the bill.
“The time has come to decriminalize marijuana…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.”
Schumer also noted that the bill would ensure that marijuana advertisement would not target kids by enforcing the same advertising guidelines for cannabis as other controlled substances, like alcohol and tobacco. The bill also gives funding to further research the benefits of THC and ensures that women and minority businesses in the industry will receive the support they need to compete with bigger companies.
— POLITICO (@politico) April 20, 2018
The current drug law classifies marijuana in the same category as heroin, which has been criticized heavily since marijuana has never caused a single death, whereas heroin is highly addictive and can cause death. Schumer noted that minorities are disproportionately affected by current laws and that too many people are serving too much time in jail for minor possession infractions.
Almost 70 percent of millennials support cannabis legalization, according to the Pew Research Center. And lawmakers nationwide are also increasingly supportive of marijuana rights. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Cory Booker are sponsoring a bill to legalize marijuana, and health experts are endorsing cannabis-based medicine for children suffering from seizures.
In recent years, the legalization of cannabis in states across the country has affected people’s perception of the plant. Marijuana’s many medicinal effects, especially for serious conditions like seizures and severe pain, have made it a popular alternative to addictive opioid prescription pills. States with recreational marijuana have also reaped the benefits of generating millions of dollars from taxing the sale of cannabis.