Schumer, Senate Democrats signal new attempt at federal marijuana legalization

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Top Senate Democrats circulated a letter Monday asking colleagues to sign on to an ambitious federal marijuana legalization push that also promises social justice reforms.

The letter signals Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s second attempt to pass the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), Politico reported.

A nearly yearlong quest by Schumer to pass an earlier version of the CAOA fizzled out in 2022 thanks in part to dissent within his own party over how much criminal justice reform to package into a federal legalization bill.

Booker, Wyden join effort

But the lead voice in demanding legalization with equity, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, signed on to Monday’s letter.

Along with Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a leading sponsor of still-stymied federal marijuana banking reform, the senators hope to introduce the bill before the end of the month with the help of any co-sponsors sympathetic to their pitch.

The three senators asked any interested senators to respond by April 19.

“Federal regulation is long overdue to ensure that cannabis products are as safe as possible, to prevent access by children and adults younger than 21, and to ensure that state and local jurisdictions have the resources they need to combat impaired driving,” the letter reads, in part.

“Federal legislation is needed to ensure that the tens of thousands of people harmed by the failed War on Drugs, predominantly from communities of color, receive the justice they deserve after decades of over-criminalization.”

The last CAOA died without being heard in committee.

Democrats wooing younger voters?

Any future effort has a questionable future in a U.S. Senate where 60 votes is needed to pass legislation and where more modest reforms such as the SAFER Banking Act have stalled.

But along with President Joe Biden’s ongoing rescheduling review – which observers believe could lead to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recommendation to downgrade MJ to a Schedule 3 drug – Schumer’s advocacy for federal legalization signals mainstream Democratic Party support for an issue popular with young voters.