Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed this week that, together with his colleagues, he is planning to consult with Republican senators to find out what “they want” to see included in a bill to federally legalize cannabis, which he should present this month.
The news comes on the heels of the U.S. House of Representatives approving a different bill to end federal cannabis prohibition, the MORE Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
“We hope to [file the bill] towards the end of April,” Schumer said, as reported by Marijuana Moment. The leader added that he, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) “are talking about it and, in fact, we’re trying to reach out” to other lawmakers about the measure.
“I’ve reached out already to a few Republicans to see what they want,” he said.
What Do Republicans Want?
Probably not all Republicans agree on everything regarding marijuana legalization, but some of them are known for supporting it. At least, under specific regulations.
For example, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), viewed as one of the leaders among GOP representatives in favor of removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances, voted against the MORE Act. Why?
“The MORE Act forces a system on South Carolinians and other states they do not want. By comparison, my bill, the States Reform Act, removes the federal government from the equation and allows states to decide for themselves,” Mace explained.
She presented her bill — the States Reform Act — in November last year, but the measure failed in 12 committees and seven subcommittees without a hearing.
According to Mace, House passage of the MORE act may be a good start for creating bipartisan consensus around legislation that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
According to Mace, many don’t understand that her bill doesn’t actually legalize cannabis at the federal level, instead, it offers full control to each state. Mace has said she believes that giving control to states and treating cannabis like alcohol is the only way for marijuana reform to obtain Republican support.
What Does Schumer’s Bill Propose?
Schumer and fellow Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden introduced the outline of the proposed Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act in July last year.
The proposal included plans to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. If passed, the bill would also expunge prior convictions and allow people who are serving time for applicable crimes to petition for resentencing.
In addition, states would retain their rights to set their own marijuana policies and help those who’ve been criminalized over the cannabis plant.
In February, the trio asked senators to help them complete the marijuana legalization bill expected to be filed in April. To that end, the top Senate Democrats sent letters to their colleagues encouraging them to get into the drafting process and help finalize this legislation.
“In order to appropriately address such a nuanced issue, we respectfully request the input, advice, and guidance of Chairs and Ranking Members of relevant committees as well as senators who have dealt with the challenges and realities of legalization in their own states,” the three senators wrote. “We would deeply appreciate your willingness to share your expertise on the intersections between your committees’ jurisdictions, your states’ experiences, and comprehensive cannabis reform and invite you to join the process of perfecting this legislation. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you in the weeks ahead.”
Furthermore, the senators accepted public comment on the draft to help them revise the bill before presenting it this month.
And while many industry experts doubt there will be federal marijuana reform this year, it’s obvious that cannabis legalization is slowly but steadily gaining wider support. In addition to the MORE Act, this week the House of Representatives passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, which will substantially expand scientific research on marijuana, including allowing scientists to study products from dispensaries.