Democrat senators vow to legalise cannabis this year

‘The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of colour,’ statement says

Louise Hall
Wednesday 03 February 2021 01:07 GMT
New York to legalise cannabis, Cuomo says
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Three top Senate Democrats have vowed to work towards the legalisation of marijuana this year, including majority leader Chuck Schumer.

Sen Schumer, alongside New Jersey Sen Cory Booker and Oregon Sen Ron Wyden released a joint statement on Monday declaring their intention to push forward major cannabis policy reform.  

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of colour,” the statement reads.  

“Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of colour across the country.”

The Democratic senators also stipulated that as “states continue to legalise marijuana” they will also work to “lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.”

“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies,” they said.  

Consideration of these reforms will be a “priority” of the senators throughout the 117th Congress, the statement said.

The Democratic senators said they intend to release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform in the early part of this year “to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”

Sen Schumer has already previously co-sponsored marijuana decriminalisation legislation several years ago, according to CNBC.

Despite the broad success of the drug’s legalisation at state levels across the country, the previously Republican-controlled Senate often proved a reliable roadblock for changes to policies on a federal level.

“Last year, we moved heaven and earth to get a bill passed through the House with key criminal justice and restorative justice provisions, but Mitch McConnell blocked consideration,” Oregon’s Democratic representative Earl Blumenauer said in a statement.

“Now, new Senate leadership is prepared to pick up the mantle.”

So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia have legalised marijuana for adult recreational use, and 36 states permit medical use of the drug, according to CNBC.

“The missing ingredient in cannabis reform has been Senate action,” Rep Blumenauer said.

“To finally have the active leadership of the new Senate majority leader, rather than being stuck in Sen McConnell’s legislative graveyard, makes all the difference in the world.”

Calls for similar change are also intensifying elsewhere on a state level, with New York governor Andrew Cuomo having pledged to legalise the recreational drug in the state this year.

“We will legalise adult-use recreational cannabis, joining 15 other states who have already done so,” Gov Cuomo said during a State of the State address in January.

“This will raise revenue and will end the over criminalisation of this product that has left so many communities of colour over-policed and over incarcerated.”

In terms of public support for the issue, a Gallup poll in November showed that 68 per cent of Americans, a record high, favored marijuana legalisation in the US.

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