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Sen. Chuck Schumer Wants to Decriminalize Cannabis. Here’s Why.

April 23, 2018
(HBO)
Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) helped America celebrate 4/20 by announcing his plan to introduce legislation that would “decriminalize marijuana from one end of the country to the other.” He later sat down with VICE News’ Shawna Thomas to discuss the forthcoming bill. Here are five takeaways from the conversation.

“The legislation is long overdue. I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer

Schumer Wants to Get the Federal Government out of the Cannabis Prohibition Business

“If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?” said Schumer, noting that his proposed legislation would “allow the states to decide. There will be no federal agents or anything like that.” (The one arena where feds may still play a prosecutorial role: interstate shipping of cannabis—specifically, from a legal state to a non-legal one.)

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Legal Cannabis’ Track Record Inspired His Pro-Cannabis Shift

“I studied the issue and we’ve now had some evidence—the state of Washington, other states—where [legalization’s] done lots of good and no harm. Justice Brandeis said ‘Let the states be laboratories.’ Now we’ve had a few states, we’ve had a few laboratories, the experiment’s been a success. Let’s nationalize it.”

For Schumer, Decriminalization Is About Social Justice and Common Sense

“The legislation is long overdue,” Schumer told VICE. “I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long. It affects communities of color disproportionately and unfairly, and ultimately, it’s the right thing to do…But it’s also practical: When so many people are incarcerated, and not out there being productive citizens of society, that matters to the whole country.”

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His Proposed Legislation Won’t Concern Itself With Righting Prohibition’s Wrongs

Despite Schumer’s social justice aims, his proposed legislation won’t concern itself with righting prohibition’s wrongs. (He’s leaving that up to Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.)

“There are two paths here,” said Schumer. “One path is decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level—that’s what we’re introducing. There’s another path already being pursued in a bipartisan way by people like Sen. Booker and Sen. Durbin, which is criminal justice reform, which I also support, but that’s a different track for people who have been unfairly punished.”

There’s No Ulterior Motive to His Support for Legalization

“Are you just doing this to piss Jeff Sessions off?” asked VICE’s Shawna Thomas. “That would be a benefit but I hadn’t thought about it,” replied Schumer with a laugh.

Watch the full VICE News interview here:

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Dave Schmader

Dave Schmader is the author of the book "Weed: The User's Guide." Follow him on Twitter @davidschmader

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  • King Ding-A-Ling

    We will see.

  • Silverado

    At least the radical, left wing DemocRATs will have something to run on come election day…
    They only want to do this because they heard Donald talking about doing the same thing. I’m from Washington state and our two left wing ladies in the DC swamp, Patty Murray and Maria “What’s Her Name” Cantwell did absolutely NOTHING on the cannabis issue either here at home OR in the swamp EVER. Not in the beginning. Crickets…Not during their tenure (which has been way too long!!). More crickets. And certainly not after the voters said YES. LOTS of crickets from Patty and Maria!!! These shifty lefties in the DC swamp, you gotta watch them…Especially these two wicked witches of the west.

    • Supposedly Trump has a plan thanks to Senator Gardner (R – CO). We shall see.

  • Carole Gaylord

    “For Schumer, Decriminalization Is About Social Justice and Common Sense”. GARBAGE. Like most politicians, Schumer supports or opposes measures based on how he perceives the voter will react, not on right and wrong. and former politicians, like Boehner, now support cannabis legalization because they think there’s money in it for them. The idea that politicians evolve in their positions is a myth. they are one of the lowest of the lowlife species on the planet. rather than evolve, they should go extinct.

  • ALAN GANN

    THEY ALL ONLY DO IT BECAUSE THEIR RICH BRIBERS TELL THEM IT IS TIME FOR THEM TO DO IT!!! I WILL BET THEY FOUND A WAY TO MAKE PROFITS FROM IT TO LINE THEIR POCKETS AND THAT IS THE ONLY REASON WHY!!! #MakeCannabisLawful #ResistTheirGreedAndCorruption

  • Mike the bike

    anybody who falls for Schumer’s ploy is ignorant or wasted.

  • randolini

    I’m 71 and I don’t give a big red rat’s ass why Mr Schumer is doing this, I just want to see it done. I know about this plant’s history prior to Harry Anslinger and with polls showing 2 out of 3 American’s supporting legalization and nearly 90% in support of Medicinal use, it is obviously the right thing to do. This is not a right or left issue. It’s an American issue.

  • lovingc

    Pissing Sessions off is worth the effort anytime!

    • Mike the bike

      Hillary lost. get over it.

      • Pink Floyd

        Doesn’t really have much to do with Hillary. Sessions has been anti-pot since at least the 80’s. It’s funny how people claim to be about state’s rights; until those rights go against what their political agenda dictates. Oh, and by the way, I voted for neither Hillary or Trump, so I don’t have a horse in this race.

  • farmerlion

    I don’t care what their reasons are. It’s long overdue and needed. They can have the bling, just get it done.

  • Ollyroger

    It should be legal,yes. I think it will happen so cops can have another tool in their box. B W D(Baked While Driving). Sound right!?

    • Mike the bike

      confused? Road & Track 1976 proved marijuana decreases accidents and improves driving skills.

      • Ollyroger

        Well, most political views have a support group. If they sell this to the police as a way to increase their ranks or “ticket time”, they will buy it. Let’s face it; the big holidays of old have mostly been subdued or died due to the problem of getting home sans arrest. Saturday night dances and New Year’s Eve parties are scarce out in the rural areas what with no public transportation. I always drove carefully as driving is an art. Some can’t drive well or courteous even sober. It’s the law of the land now (some lands) and we are the land of laws. Just saying it’s a money deal as folks will toke and drive, as they now drink and drive. Busted! Thanks for comment; was it tongue and/in cheek?

  • Chuck Boroughs

    Schumer has been in the Senate for 20 years, Why now? what’s the motivation other than to be for whatever the other party is against. Yes marijuana should be legal at the federal level, but Schumer gets no respect for suddenly wanting to legalize pot just to be contrary. Do it because it’s the right thing to do, and way past time to do it.

  • Sonny Cole

    i e-mailed trump to let him know that the first party who takes cannabis off the class 1 list and will look at better cannabis

    reform will win in 2018,i guess the left hacked the e-mail.

  • Grow Your Own

    Yes “Decriminalization of marijuana at the Federal Level”
    Remove Cannabis from the “Controlled Substances Act” CSA and Legalize & Tax Just Like Alcohol.
    https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/controlled-substances-act-csa-overview.html

  • Ollyroger

    God bless these United Police States of America

  • Censored-ABCNEWS.COM-Siemen

    Wow – Chuck Schumer has finally done something in the Senate that I can Support!