Democrats introduce long-awaited bill to decriminalise cannabis on federal level

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Senate Democrats are set to unveil an effort to decriminalise marijuana at the federal level on Thursday but face an uphill battle to seeing it become law.

A bill that would decriminalise the bill at the federal level and acknowledge the right of states to set their own levels of restrictions on the substance is being sponsored by none other than Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of the most vocal proponents for changing the federal designation of cannabis which is currently scheduled the same as addictive and dangerous drugs like heroin.

The full text of the legislation was not immediately available Thursday morning but according to Politico also contains provisions for expunging the criminal records of those with convictions (at the federal level) for marijuana posession and a number of other provisions including requiring the Department of Transportation to develop a national standard for measuring cannabis-related impairment for drivers.

It would also establish grant programs to allow more small business owners a chance to enter the industry. But it’s unclear whether the bill will have the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate as well as the 10 Republican votes needed to avert a filibuster.

Recreational and medical marijuana legalisation is an issue that typically finds bipartisan support, especially in more recent years, but some provisions in the bill including the effort to expunge the criminal records of some Americans could drive GOP support from the bill.

President Joe Biden’s stance on legalisation itself is murky. He has stated in the past that he does not support legalisation at the federal level, while also expressing support for states making their own laws on the issue. In recent days however he has indicated that his team is working with Congress on an effort to expunge the convictions of those incarcerated for marijuana use, suggesting that this bill may already have the support of the White House.

“I don’t think anyone should be in prison for the use of marijuana,” he said during a press gaggle over the weekend, adding: “We’re working on the crime bill now”.

The Independent has reached out to the White House for clarification of Mr Biden’s stance on Mr Schumer’s legislation.

In May the Senate Democratic leader told supporters at a legal cannabis rally that he had discussed the legislation with six Republican senators, four short of the total needed to bypass a filibuster, and was working hard to get the legislation across the finish line.

“This is mainstream. A majority of America believes we should legalize once and for all. And we are working to do that in the United States Senate. We are working hard to get that done,” he told the crowd. He added: “I’ve already met with six Republicans, so we can get 10 [and] we can get the 60 votes we need on the floor of the Senate to pass legislation that is so important.”