Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks: The Time Has Come To End The Federal Prohibition On Marijuana In This Country

April 20, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding his support for ending the federal prohibition on marijuana and the disproportionate impact of our drug laws on people of color. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks which can also be viewed here:

Today is what you might call a very unofficial American holiday: 4/20.

It’s as appropriate a time as any to take a hard look at our laws that have over-criminalized the use of marijuana and put it on par with heroin, LSD and other narcotics that bear little or no resemblance in their effects either on individuals or on society more broadly.

The War on Drugs has too often been a war on people: particularly people of color.

For decades, young men and women, disproportionately young men and women of color, have been arrested and jailed for even carrying a small amount of marijuana—a charge that often came with exorbitant penalties and a serious criminal record, from which they might never recover. Being rejected from job after job—because of this minor, minor deviation from the law, which was listed as a serious criminal record. It makes no sense and it’s time for a change.

I believe the time has come to end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country—and I am working with Senators Booker and Wyden on legislation to do just that.

My thinking on this issue has evolved. A number of states, including very recently my home state of New York, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults and those experiments by and large have been a success. The doom and gloom predictions made when states like Colorado or Oregon went forward and decriminalized and legalized never occurred. In state after state, through ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments, the American people are sending a clear message that they want this policy changed.

Senators Booker, Wyden and I are going to continue to work on our legislation and in the near future we hope to have a draft of a comprehensive reform effort: not only to end the federal prohibition on marijuana but to ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations. This was the approach taken by legislators in New York. I believe it is the right approach and serves as a model for how we should deal with this issue in Congress.

Hopefully the next time this unofficial holiday of 4/20 rolls around, our country will have made progress in addressing the massive over-criminalization of marijuana in a meaningful and comprehensive way.