WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday released a “discussion draft” of legislation that would make marijuana federally legal — despite President Biden’s continued opposition to marijuana legalization.
The bill would remove the drug from the Controlled Substance Act and put the Food and Drug Administration in charge of regulation. States would be allowed to maintain their own laws against pot possession.
Schumer wrote in a tweet that it’s a “legislative proposal to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and repair damage done by the War on Drugs — especially in communities of color.”
The 163-page draft bill would apply a new federal tax that would be used to help minority groups enter the industry after bearing a disproportionate share of arrests, according to a breakdown by Marijuana Moment, a prominent cannabis-policy publication.
The bill would allow for federal criminal records to be expunged and current prisoners to be resentenced.
Recent polls by Gallup and Pew found that more than two-thirds of US adults support marijuana legalization — including about half of Republicans. But Biden has remained vehement in his opposition and this year the White House fired and disciplined staffers for past pot use.
Some people are still serving life without parole in federal prison for dealing marijuana, including Ismael Lira, 44, and Pedro Moreno, 61, who recently told The Post that they want Biden to honor his campaign-trail pledge to release “everyone” in prison for marijuana.
The White House has declined to say if Biden will honor that pledge. Biden recently smiled and continued walking when asked about that commitment by The Post on the White House lawn.
Since 2012, 18 states, two US territories and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational pot use and voters in a 19th state — South Dakota — voted for legalization, but the referendum is tied up in court.
The Justice Department has tolerated state-legal pot businesses, but risk-averse banks have cited fear of continued federal prohibition and possible money laundering charges to decline accounts to pot companies.
As a senator, Biden authored some of the nation’s harshest federal drug laws. On his last day as president, Donald Trump released two prisoners serving life without parole for pot under Biden’s 1994 crime law and its since-repealed “three strikes” rule.
Vice President Harris reportedly oversaw 1,900 marijuana prosecutions while she was San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011, before saying in 2019 that she is a former pot user and a supporter of legalization.
A number of Democratic holdouts and broad Republican opposition in the evenly divided Senate mean that Schumer’s bill — co-authored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) — is unlikely to pass anytime soon.
But as legislation looms, conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently hinted at a possible judicial case for making pot legal.
Thomas wrote that tolerance for state-level pot legalization created a “half-in, half-out regime” and a “contradictory and unstable state of affairs” and that a “prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the Federal Government’s piecemeal approach.”