“I will use my clout as Majority Leader to make this a priority in the Senate,” announced Senator Chuck Schumer this morning – flanked by Senators Ron Wyden, Chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and Cory Booker – as they introduced the Cannabis Administration And Opportunity Act, legislation designed to remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, thus legalizing it federally.
Their rationale for ending what they call “one of the great historical wrongs of the last decades,” is fourfold: To end the “historic overcriminalization” of people of color; to free up law enforcement to concentrate on violent crime – in 2019 there were more cannabis arrests than for all other violent crime arrests combined; to end hypocrisy – people running for Congress and two of the last four presidents openly admit to smoking cannabis; and, to further science & medicine.
To those ends, the bill proposes such things as expunging the records of people convicted of a nonviolent cannabis offense, and ensuring that small businesses and minority entrepreneurs are a “fixture at the table, a place where they have always been sidelined and shutout,” by, for example, offering small business grants & loans and by taxing them at half the rate of “big business.”
But the most powerful moment of the day belonged to Cory Booker. He recounted his first press conference as a Senator – “one of the most moving moments of my Senate career” – with families of children who had Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy. He told the story of a mother who attended with her child in a wheelchair who suffered 100 seizures a day. The mother considered herself a “marijuana refugee” because she moved from a state where cannabis was illegal to where it was legal in order to get treatment for her child. She talked about how she was still violating federal law and that she could be prosecuted, that the person providing treatment could be prosecuted, and that university’s couldn’t study cannabis to, for example, figure out the right dosage for her child. And as that first presser unfolded – as the mother was telling Booker her story – her child fell into a seizure. That we criminalize American’s like that, said Booker passionately, for trying to help their sick children is a “grievous and devastating injustice” that must be remedied.
But the remedy will have to wait. At the close of Schumer’s remarks he conceded they don’t yet have the votes to get the bill out of the Senate and thus: “We’re going to go to our colleagues and say ‘What do you support here? What don’t you support?’ We’re going to get something done.”
(The Senator’s remarks begin at the 4.30 mark in the video. Dravet Syndrome is now treated with Epdiolex, an oral solution of CBD.)