TRANSCRIPT: Majority Leader Schumer Remarks At Press Conference Introducing Discussion Draft Of The Cannabis Administration And Opportunity Act

July 14, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today delivered remarks at a press conference with Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ),  introducing a discussion draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a legislative proposal that would end the decades of harm inflicted on communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and empowering states to implement their own cannabis laws. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The Senate for the first time – I as Majority leader; Senator Wyden as the Chairman of the Finance Committee;  and Senator Booker, one of the foremost champions for justice and equity here in the Senate – we are all joining together to release draft legislation to end the federal prohibition on cannabis.

This is monumental. Because at long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.

I was the first Democratic Leader to come out for the legalization of marijuana, and I will use my clout as Majority Leader to make this a priority in the Senate.

As my colleagues and I have said before, the War on Drugs has really been a war on people, particularly people of color. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would help put an end to the unfair targeting and treatment of communities of color by removing cannabis from the Federal list of controlled substances.

This is not just an idea whose time has come, it's long overdue.

We have all seen the agony of a young person arrested with a small amount of marijuana in his or her pocket. And because of the overkill, the historical over criminalization of marijuana, they have a very severe criminal record. They have to live with their whole lives; tougher to get a job; tougher to get credit; tougher to live a normal life.

The waste of human resources because of the historic over-criminalization has been one of the great historical wrongs for the last decades. We are going to change it. We're going to fight hard to change it. And America is on our side: 70% of Americans now support legalizing adult use of marijuana.

In the 2020 election, it was put on the ballot by petition in South Dakota – and even South Dakota, one of the most conservative states in America, a majority voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana. If South Dakota can do it, the Senate should be able to do it. And we're going to fight to make sure it happens.

My thinking of course, like so many others has evolved on the issues on the issue. When the laboratory of states, led by Senator Wyden’s state and Colorado legalized the opponents had listed this parade of horribles – drug use will go up, crime will go up. Well that didn't happen. None of those parade of horribles ever occurred.

And now, for justice, and for freedom, it makes eminent sense to legalize marijuana. A number of states, including my own of New York, just legalized recently. The doom and gloom predictions haven't materialized in any of these states. And as more and more states legalize marijuana, it's time for our federal cannabis law to catch up.

We also very much believe in the expungement of records, because of the historical over-criminalization people shouldn't have to live—if they had a small amount of marijuana in their possession—people shouldn't have to live with a criminal record the rest of their lives. Expunge those records. Let these people become productive citizens without that criminal record, severe criminal record, hanging over their head.

We also want to make sure that there's a fair administration and that smaller businesses and communities of color are not left out as marijuana is legalized and sold across the country.

So this is a bill we've consulted the experts on. We've consulted many of our colleagues. And the next step for this critical legislation is getting further input from stakeholder groups, which is essential to the legislation’s success. It's time for the country to engage in this discussion, and update our federal laws, not only to reflect popular wisdom, but science, but science.