Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared that Senate Democrats will move forward on marijuana legalization with or without Joe Biden’s support, highlighting Biden’s lack of influence within his own party.
In a Politico interview published Saturday, Schumer indicated that Biden’s hesitation to back federal marijuana legalization won’t stop the Democrats from enacting it.
“He [Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I] obviously want to give him a little time to study it. I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will,” the Senate Democratic leader said. “But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”
“When a few of the early states — Oregon and Colorado — wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer explained. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well.”
“They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy,” he added.
Schumer’s remarks come after Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki noted on Friday that Biden “believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana, but his position has not changed” on broader nationwide legalization.
We’ve already seen the influence of these corporate interests. In some instances, many of these same people have lobbied against consumer-friendly legalization provisions, such as the right for adults to cultivate marijuana in the privacy of their homes. These corporate entities also have pushed for statewide limits on the number of licensed cannabis producers and retailers, in an effort to keep prices and supply artificially limited — and to keep the economic benefits of legalization largely out of the reach of average Americans, especially people of color.
That’s their vision of legalization. NORML’s vision of legalization includes the right to personal cultivation and mandates low barriers of entry to the cannabis market so that every American who wishes to benefit from legalization can do so. Our vision includes the mass expungement of criminal records and provides justice to those communities that have been historically most impacted by the failed drug war. Our vision of legalization stops the discrimination in the workplace against those who choose to consume cannabis in their off-hours. Our vision includes low taxes and ready access to those adults who wish to legally obtain affordable cannabis products in a safe, licensed, regulated environment.
In the historic election cycle that took place in November, multiple states made their voices heard in regard to the prohibition of cannabis and they voted to legalize it. As we reported, in many of these states, the ballot measures to legalize cannabis received more votes than both Biden and Trump. South Dakota was one of these states. Now, despite the overwhelming support for legalization by the people, drug war-addicted cops challenged the popular vote — and overturned it.
Immediately after the vote, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Rick Miller came out fighting, letting the state know that they are not okay with the citizens of South Dakota having access to the devil’s lettuce, so they filed a lawsuit challenging the voter referendum that legalized cannabis.
Thom and Miller nitpicked the vote to legalize by challenging what is little less than a strawman they created. They said the vote to legalize cannabis which required a constitutional amendment to do so — was done so illegally — because semantics.
Governor Kristi Noem issued an executive order Friday, January 8, against Amendment A, which would legalize recreational marijuana in the state of South Dakota. This move officially backs South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Rick Miller and Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom, who originally filed the lawsuit.
Noem says she will be directing the suit challenging the amendment and has the authority to do so. She claims the process used to put it on the ballot violates the state constitution. A motions hearing is scheduled for January 27th.
Marijuana legalization was a clear winner in the November election, as one in three Americans will now live in a state with legal marijuana. In red states like Montana and South Dakota; swing states like Arizona; and blue states like New Jersey, marijuana legalization ballot measures were extremely successful, in many cases at levels approaching supermajorities. In every single one of these states–from red to blue, east to west, urban to rural–marijuana legalization far outperformed the states’ Democratic tickets.
In my state of California, voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized marijuana use. Following its passage, marijuana arrests decreased by 56%, demonstrating the power decriminalization has to curb mass incarceration.
None of this should come as a surprise. We knew the popularity of marijuana legalization and the MORE Act long before November 3rd. Support for these policies has been steadily rising since the 1970s. This summer, polling from Data for Progress and the Justice Collaborative Institute found that when asked about its specific provisions, 59 percent of voters, including a majority of Republicans, support the MORE Act.
The House on Friday passed a landmark bill that would remove federal penalties on marijuana and erase cannabis-related criminal records.
The bill passed by a vote of 228-164, with several Republicans on board. While the MORE Act is not expected to come up in the Senate this year, and likely won’t in the next session of Congress either, its passage nevertheless marks a monumental step in marijuana policy.