The newest federal push for marijuana reform may come soon via new legislation in the Senate. Senators Cory Booker, Ron Wyden, and Chuck Schumer are expected to introduce the legislation, after earlier releasing a joint statement calling for comprehensive cannabis reform. All three supported a 2018 bill that would have decriminalized cannabis, a 2019 bill that would have legalized marijuana nationally, and the MORE Act (passed by the House) that would have descheduled and decriminalized marijuana nationwide. Both descheduling (removing marijuana from the list of drugs deemed by the DEA to “have no medicinal value” and “a high potential for abuse”) and decriminalizing (removing criminal charges or penalties for possession and use) fall short of full legalization but are still useful steps.
This legislative push comes as support for legal marijuana is at an all‐time high. Sixty‐eight percent of Americans are in favor, and nearly 60 percent of Americans live in a state where recreational marijuana use and possession are legal or decriminalized. State‐level legalization has thus far been a success, with no adverse consequences and substantial tax revenue generation. Just in the past month and a half, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia have enacted legislation legalizing marijuana.
Passing comprehensive marijuana reform will require bipartisan cooperation. Another hurdle may be President Biden, whose administration has been reluctant to embrace federal marijuana legalization. Thus far, states have been doing the heavy lifting on marijuana reform. Federal legalization would not compel states to legalize recreational marijuana but rather would allow states to pursue their own desired policies absent the threat of federal crackdowns.