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Schumer Pushes Back Release For Senate Legalization Bill

The wait for the Senate’s version of a cannabis legalization bill will continue for months, with Democratic leaders in the chamber indicating Thursday that it will come sometime in the summer.

According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he’s proud of the progress senators have made in “bringing this vital bill closer to its official introduction” before the recess in early August.”

The timeline marks a shift from what Schumer had said previously and it may dismay legalization advocates who had hoped that the Senate’s legislation would arrive sooner—especially after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own bill to end prohibition on the federal level earlier this month.

The New York Democrat said after the House’s passage that he hoped the Senate would unveil its legalization measure by the end of this month.

On April 1, Democratic-led House approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act. This Act would eliminate marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending federal prohibition against pot.

Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who is working with Schumer and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden on the Senate’s legalization bill, said that the bill passed by the House was unlikely to win approval in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats.

“Right now we’re looking at doing the one that we’ve been working on for a long time,” Booker said, as quoted by Roll Call.

According to The Hill, Schumer said that the Senate’s bill is titled “the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act,” and the majority leader said the legislation will remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and “help repair our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations.”

Schumer and other Democrats from Capitol Hill made it very clear that federal legalization was their goal since they took control of Congress last year.

In an interview with Politico last year, Schumer said that Democrats would take action, despite President Joe Biden’s reluctance to support legalization.

“We will move forward,” Schumer said. “[Biden] said he’s studying the issue, so [I]He will appreciate a bit of time for it to be read. He will hear my arguments, just like many others. But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.”

Schumer claimed in an interview that his progress on the topic was due to seeing state legalization efforts.

“In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, ‘Well what changed?’ Well, my thinking evolved. 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. It would increase drug abuse. Everything bad would happen,” Schumer said. “The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They proved to be a huge success. People were allowed more freedom and the parade of evils was never held. And people in those states seem very happy.”

Biden declared that he was in favor of decriminalizing cannabis but did not support legalization.

Following the House’s passage of the MORE Act earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president believes “current marijuana laws are not working.”

“We look forward to working with Congress to achieve our shared goals, and we’ll continue having discussions with them about this objective,” Psaki said at a press briefing.

Although winning over Biden might be easier than winning support from Republicans in the end, it is possible. As The Hill noted, “Many Republicans are opposed to legislation legalizing marijuana, posing one of the biggest hurdles to Schumer getting such a measure through the 50-50 split Senate,” and that to “secure passage, Democrats would need the support of their entire caucus, and at least 10 Republicans to bypass a likely filibuster.”