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On June 27, U. S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana and to give people with marijuana convictions a chance to clear their records.

The Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as having no medical use but acknowledges the medical use of benzos, Adderall, Fentanyl, and opioids. (The FDA, however, recently approved Epidiolex, the brand name of a CBD preparation for the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy.) Schumer’s bill would remove marijuana from the act’s list of dangerous drugs with no medical use.

According to a press release issued by the Drug Policy Alliance, in addition to decriminalization and creating a program for expungement of federal marijuana convictions, Schumer’s bill would create a fund that would be used to lend startup money to small marijuana businesses owned by women and minorities.

“The time has come to decriminalize marijuana,” said Leader Schumer in a prepared statement. “My thinking—as well as the general population’s views—on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done. It’s simply the right thing to do. This legislation would let the states be the laboratories that they should be, ensure that woman and minority-owned business have a fair shot in the marijuana industry, invests in critical research on THC, and ensures that advertisers can’t target children—it’s a balanced approach.”

Schumer’s bill would maintain the authority of federal law enforcement to prevent marijuana trafficking from states that have legalized marijuana to those that have not. The bill would also allow for research into marijuana’s potential as medicine, its effects on driving, and tests to measure impairment. Finally, the law would prohibit marijuana advertising that targets children.

Cory Booker’s bill does more

The bill has company. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has introduced his own bill, the Marijuana Justice Act. The bill has the support of Kamala Harris of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Marijuana is legal in both West Coast states. Booker’s bill goes further than Schumer’s. Rather than decriminalize marijuana, Booker’s bill would end federal marijuana prohibition, making it legal under federal law. Booker’s bill would also do more to repair the damage inflicted on poor and minority communities by federal marijuana prosecution. For example, Booker’s bill would automatically expunge federal convictions for use and possession.

Booker has announced his support for Schumer’s bill. In a prepared statement, Booker said: “Senator Schumer’s announcement today is an important step forward that broadens the base of support for fixing our nation’s broken drug laws. He’s on the right side of history and I am increasingly confident that more and more elected officials will join the common sense call to tear down the failed and destructive War on Drugs. I applaud Senator Schumer’s announcement, and particularly appreciate his focus on investing in the communities most impacted by marijuana prohibition.”

What do you think? Will federal marijuana law change before 2020? Leave a comment below.

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About the Author: Eric Howard

Eric Howard, who lives in Los Angeles, is a staff writer for Marijuana and the Law. His most recent book, Taliban Beach Party, appeared in 2017.

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