Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to propose legislation decriminalizing marijuana on a federal level.
While Schumer, who was elected to the Senate two decades ago, has been supportive of medicinal marijuana, he has now “evolved” his thinking on recreational marijuana.
“The time has come to decriminalize marijuana,” the New York Democrat said in a statement Friday announcing his plans to introduce a new bill in the Senate.
“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,” he said.
Schumer announced the proposed legislation Thursday in an interview with “Vice News Tonight.”
The senator told Vice News he had “seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long.”
Schumer further explained his decision in a Medium post Friday.
“A staggering number of American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are African American and Latino, continue to be arrested every day for something that most Americans agree should not be a crime,” Schumer wrote. “Meanwhile, those who are entering into the marijuana market in states that have legalized are set to make a fortune. This is not only misguided, but it undermines the basic principles of fairness and equal opportunity that are foundational to the American way of life.”
According to Schumer’s office, under the new bill, marijuana would be removed from the list of substances classified under the Controlled Substances Act.
Schumer’s legislation would leave in place decisions by states on how to regulate marijuana, the authority of federal law enforcement to penalize trafficking from states that have legalized the drug to those that have not, and federal regulation of marijuana advertising so children aren’t targeted.
The bill also seeks to allocate funds for women and minority-owned marijuana businesses and public health research regarding the effects of THC, the main active chemical in marijuana.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.