U.S Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has announced that cannabis reform will be a priority in 2021 and is urging leading attorney general nominee Merrick Garland to respect the rights of states that have legalized medical or recreational cannabis. 

In a meeting on February 2, Schumer spoke with Garland and President Joe Biden’s other nominees for top Department of Justice (DOJ) positions, highlighting cannabis as only one of four specific policies discussed during the forum. 

Schumer and Other Top Democrats Seek to Honor Pledges of Cannabis Reform 

In 2020, Schumer and other top democrats pledged to advance marijuana reform in the U.S Senate should their party retake control of the chamber. Now that the 2020 election results have been certified in favor of the Democrats taking control of the Senate, lawmakers are moving to protect U.S citizens from criminal penalties surrounding marijuana that create devastating obstacles for people that are otherwise law-abiding members of society. 

The first step for Senate Democrats, they say, is to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level. The House passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in December of 2020, before it failed to advance in the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats have authority in both chambers, they hope to pass the bill on to the executive approach for approval within the calendar year. 

Garland’s Stance on Cannabis Unclear 

Leading attorney general nominee Merrick Garland’s stance on cannabis is less clear than other prominent DOJ nominees. His sole major ruling on cannabis-related policy was a 2012 federal lawsuit over the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s denial of a petition to reschedule marijuana. In that instance, Garland went with the majority to uphold the DEA’s rejection. 

Still — much has changed in the conversation surrounding the descheduling of cannabis since 2012 — and Democrats are confident that almost anyone would be better for cannabis reform as opposed to trump-appointed AG General Jeff Sessions, who utilized the position to further a personal opposition to the plant. 

Contributed by Jack Berning

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