Chuck Schumer says federal marijuana legalization and expungement is Senate priority

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. - Shutterstock / Lev Radin
Shutterstock / Lev Radin
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

Congress is closer than ever to legalizing weed — and the leader of the Democratic-majority U.S. Senate says he'll use all of his political power to make it happen.

A day after unveiling proposed legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said that doing so was a top priority.

"I am the first majority leader to say it's time to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and as majority leader, I'm going to push this issue forward and make it a priority for the Senate," Schumer said Thursday, according to The Hill.

On Wednesday, Schumer introduced the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which would legalize marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, allowing for it to be taxed and regulated.

The bill would allow financial services such as bank accounts and loans for legal cannabis businesses. Even though many states, including Michigan, have legalized marijuana for recreational use, it remains a Schedule 1 banned drug in the eyes of the federal government, which can put many legal businesses in hot water when it comes to banking.

The proposed legislation would also immediately expunge the criminal records of people with low-level marijuana offenses.

Sen. Corey Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon, both Democrats, are sponsors of Schumer's bill.  

"At long last it would take steps to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs," Schumer said.

The federal proposal comes as other states blow past Texas in legalizing weed for personal use and widening is medical availability. At present, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have made it legal for recreational use.

During its most recent session, the Texas Legislature expanded the state's "compassionate use" program to include people with cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it stopped short of allowing usage by people with chronic pain, a setback to weed proponents.

Marijuana advocates also say Texas' new rules don't allow high enough levels of THC to make a difference for patients with severe needs.  

San Antonio Current Editor-in-Chief Sanford Nowlin contributed to this story.

A version of this story first appeared in Detroit Metro Times, an affiliated publication.

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