Senate Democrats push new bill to decriminalize marijuana at federal level

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats introduced draft legislation to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level Wednesday in a push that is expected to face an uphill battle in Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAO) along with co-sponsors Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

“This is monumental because at long last we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs on the failed war on drugs,” Schumer said.

“This bill is urgent,” Booker said. “This bill is long past due.”

The proposal would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances list and would expunge federal convictions for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

It would also lead to federal regulations for marijuana use, which would be taxed.

18 states and Washington D.C. have already legalized recreational use of marijuana and studies show there is widespread public support.

But it’s unclear if or how that support will translate to the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office told our Washington News Bureau that the Republican leader has not changed his position and does not support legalizing marijuana, though McConnell does support legalizing hemp to be sold as an agricultural product.

Schumer acknowledged these hurdles in his public remarks.

“We don’t have the votes necessary at this point but we have a large majority of our caucus for it,” said Schumer. “We’re going to show it to the others and say, well what don’t you like? What do you like? And we’ll see if we can get support but we are going to put our muscle behind it, our effort behind it, and we are going to get this done ASAP.”

This latest push in the Senate comes after the House passed a measure to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level in December.

“Yes, legalizing weed would create revenue from taxes, but at what cost?” said Rep. Greg Murphy (D-NC) in December. “Do we then start legalizing cocaine? Marijuana is a gateway drug.”