Top House Democrat Says Marijuana Realignment Is a ‘Step in the Right Direction,’ While GOP Leader Opposes Reform

The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives says the Biden administration’s decision to reshuffle marijuana is a “step in the right direction” but should be followed by congressional action, such as passing a legalization bill that was resubmitted to the Senate side this week. In contrast, a top Republican Party leader is speaking out against even the modest proposal to reclassify cannabis.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said during a press conference Wednesday that he supports both the administrative reform announced by the Justice Department – ​​reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) – as the legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and 17 Democratic colleagues to end the ban altogether.

Jeffries said he has “long been involved in the effort to deter marijuana and break the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration gap in the United States of America,” adding that it was an “honor” to serve on a bipartisan basis to work during the last government that implemented penal reform.

Jeffries and Schumer also previously introduced companion versions of a separate cannabis legalization proposal called the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act.

Regarding the redistricting, Jeffries said that “the Biden administration’s efforts were impactful and another step in the right direction that we must build on legislatively.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), meanwhile, criticized the administration’s redistricting move, saying the administration should focus on “reducing the number of people using drugs and not increasing that number.”

“We shouldn’t make things worse,” he said.

President Joe Biden led the scheduling review, but he has not yet specifically addressed DOJ’s proposal to move Schedule III for marijuana. The White House said Wednesday that the decision is broadly consistent with the president’s 2020 marijuana reform campaign pledges.

However, the prospects for building on that with legislation to legalize marijuana are doubtful this session in a divided Congress. Instead, lawmakers, advocates, and stakeholders are focused on advancing bipartisan cannabis banking legislation.

To that end, Schumer indicated he is not giving up hope of linking the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act to the aviation legislation that needs to be passed. But Republican leaders in both chambers are creating roadblocks to reform.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it clear he opposes this option.

Schumer also said Tuesday that while the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) decision to propose a marijuana rescheduling is a “historic step forward,” he remains “strongly committed” to advancing cannabis banking and legalization legislation during this session.

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Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) spoke out against the marijuana banking bill this week, linking the legal market to a deadly 2022 shooting at a cannabis facility involving people who “were all from China ‘.

However, bipartisan support for the bill is clear. Just last week, Republican Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. French Hill (R-AR), said he would support a bill to regulate hybrid marijuana banks and cryptocurrency, saying “our country will benefit” if both reforms are being implemented.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said separately that “now is the time” to pass cannabis banking reform, and she is “hopeful” that lawmakers will “overcome” any potential challenge from McConnell as they work to advance of the legislation.

Last week, Schumer again included the bipartisan marijuana banking bill in a list of legislative priorities he hopes to advance this year.

Opponents of marijuana legalization are raising money for a possible lawsuit against federal realignment moves

Photo element courtesy of Carlos Gracia.

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