Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries Unveil Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

By Paul Gaita 05/17/19
Schumer and Jeffries announced the bill in a video where they discussed its provisions and intended impact.
Chuck Schumer & Hakeem Jeffries
Photo via YouTube

A pair of Democratic lawmakers have partnered on a new bill that seeks to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Representative Hakeem Jeffries joined forces for the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, while also offering support to small business owners involved in cannabis-related industries and funding toward the Department of Justice (DOJ) to support expungement programs for marijuana convictions at the state and local level. 

The bill is the second such effort in two years for Schumer, who, in describing the bill, said, "What we're saying is very simple. Let each state do what it wants."

Schumer and Jeffries announced the bill in a video where the two discussed the bill's provisions and intended impact. Decriminalization, as Schumer noted, will allow the states to create their own legislation regarding marijuana and remove concerns for sellers, distributors and users about federal prosecution. 

The bill also includes the aforementioned expungement program funds for the DOJ, which Jeffries said would "[create] opportunity and economic space [that] will be tremendous."

He also noted that removing criminal marijuana charges would change the course of "lives and communities that have been ruined in large measure by the overcriminalization."

Small cannabis business owners, especially women or people of color, will also benefit through support from the Small Business Administration, which is included in the bill. "Let's not have some big fancy corporation, some big tobacco company make all the money," said Schumer in the video. Additionally, the Huffington Post reported that the bill will provide millions of dollars for research into the effects of marijuana on brain function and driving impairment. 

"The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is a phenomenal step forward in terms of social, racial and economic justice in the context of what many people view as the failed War on Drugs that has been with us for decades," said Jeffries.

As High Times noted, the bill will most likely face opposition from Senate Republicans, but it's not clear how Donald Trump will respond. The president previously voiced support for a legalization bill introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) in 2018.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.