What Chuck Schumer Can Do For Marijuana As Senate Majority Chief

There’s a new sheriff in town.

New York City Senator Charles Schumer is the new majority leader in the United States Senate. He dethroned the now Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell after Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock dominated the Georgia runoff elections. The exchange of power will be official from the inauguration of President Biden on Wednesday. McConnell, the self-proclaimed Capitol Hill grim reaper, no longer sets the tone. Schumer is.

This is great news for cannabis advocates who are tired of watching one marijuana bill after another wipe out by Mitch McConnell. In the past four years, the democratically controlled house has passed some pot measures and sent them to the Senate for review. But there all their good intentions died. McConnell not only refused to hear the bills, but presumably burned them behind the Capitol.

McConnell campaigned for industrial hemp legalization but was never a fan of marijuana. He promised the legalization wouldn’t happen while he was running the show. “I have no plans to advocate legalizing marijuana” McConnell said in 2018.

The Kentucky Republican always displayed his power. “I am the one who decides what we say. That is my responsibility as the majority leader.” he once told reporters. Therefore, one of the first things Senate Majority Leader Schumer can do for the marijuana movement is to consider the legislation. He can allow bills to be discussed and voted on by the entire Senate. But will he?

Photo by Nicholas Kamm-Pool / Getty Images

Senator Schumer is a longtime fan of marijuana reform. He brought the 2018 Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act to the table and urged it again the following year. He also criticized weak cannabis banking policies and pressured federal lawmakers to take a tougher approach to legalizing marijuana nationally. Schumer is not interested in taking small steps. Some of his final comments on the matter, before he became majority leader in the Senate, suggested that he would push for full legalization if the Democrats took a majority. “When I become majority leader, I’ll put this on the floor and it will probably be over.” he told Green Enterprise.

That’s right, Schumer might actually give marijuana a chance to gain ground in 2021.

The Senate Majority Leader sets the timetable for legislation and controls the agenda. If Schumer wants the Senate to consider the MORE Act (Marihuana Opportunity and Expungement Act) – a law to legalize the paper at the national level – it will. According to the Senate paradigm“Motions to examine bills and resolutions in the calendar are usually made by the majority leader or his agent, who, as spokesman for his party and in consultation with his political committee, implements and directs the timetable and program for the legislation. ”

RELATED: Anti-Marijuana Mitch McConnell Might Still Control the Senate as a minority leader

But the minority leader still gets some input. Indeed, the rules of the Senate show that the minority leader can always move a bill. There is only one gentlemen’s agreement, so no one but the majority leader dictates the flow. So Schumer and McConnell are trying to do this now negotiate a power sharing dealabout how the 50-50 Senate will work. Democrats are trying to get rid of the filibuster while McConnell is holding on to it because it is his only chance to maintain power.

As it stands, Schumer is the front runner, which means that marijuana-related legislation will at least get more attention than it did when McConnell held that position. It just depends on whether the Democrats can get the votes they need to get something passed.

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There is much more at stake this year than just a pot reform. The first priority will be to find ways to alleviate the ongoing plight of the pandemic. Therefore, weeds might not be the top priority for Schumer in the beginning. “We have a long agenda and we have to do it together. … This is going to be an extraordinarily busy and consistent time for the United States Senate. ” he said in his first speech as the majority leader. Still, it would be naive to believe that Schumer and the Democrats will not take this golden opportunity to get a marijuana bill into the books.

After all, the time is now. The Democrats could lose their majority power again in the medium term.

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