Senate leader Schumer pushing federal marijuana legalization as priority

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he’s putting together a new federal marijuana legalization bill that would allow states freedom to “do whatever they’d like” and put tax revenues into minority communities most harmed by prohibition.

A New York Democrat who filed a marijuana descheduling bill in 2018, Schumer said his latest effort draws from a number of reform bills. He reportedly is working with both Democratic senators and some Republicans.

He talked about the approach to decriminalizing marijuana in an interview on Instagram Thursday with former NBA basketball player Al Harrington, who is CEO of Los Angeles-based cannabis company Viola Brands.

In addition to provisions to help minority communities, Schumer indicated that he wants an industry that isn’t taken over by corporations.

“I don’t want to see these big tobacco companies coming in and shoving everyone out,” he said.

The Democrats recently took control of both chambers of Congress, as well as the presidency, likely providing the best opportunity yet for federal marijuana reform.

In a research note Friday, St. Louis-based investment banking firm Stifel characterized Schumer’s leadership on the issue and the Democratic trifecta as a “Goldilocks” scenario for the American marijuana sector.

The development, Stifel said, “could foreshadow the most important catalyst in the history of the US cannabis industry,” while noting significant obstacles could yet come.

“We believe Sen. Schumer’s comments outline a bill that resembles the STATES Act, but includes social justice provisions, and could address obstacles (such as the onerous Section 280E tax provision) to have a significant positive impact on cannabis operators’ regulatory environment,” Stifel analyst Andrew Partheniou wrote.

Schumer appears to be trying to strike a balance between the social justice-focused Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, favored by progressives and embraced by the U.S. House in December, and a STATES approach, which might be more palatable in the conservative Senate.

In the Instagram interview, Harrington urged Schumer to include other stakeholders such as minorities in the discussions and negotiations.