Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.) is thinking green. The New York politician took to Twitter on Friday (April 20) to formally announce that he will introduce a bill to decriminalize marijuana on a federal level, thus “removing the barriers to state legalization efforts.”
Although weed has been legalized for recreational and/or medical use in more than two dozen states, the federal government places marijuana in the same category as heroine and cocaine, thanks to the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
“It’s time to allow states, once and for all, to have the power to decide what works best for them,” Schumer tweeted. “I have long believed that states should function as their own laboratories of democracy. My bill is a step in the right direction aimed at removing the barriers to state legalization efforts.”
Schumer went on to say that his stance on cannabis shifted after reviewing statistics on the number of Americans who believe that weed should be legalized. His new-and-improved disposition is likely to entice young voters, and seemingly aligns with former House Speaker, John Boehner, and other politicians who have recently jumped on the weed bandwagon.
In making the announcement, Schumer touched on the racial aspect of how cannabis has been used to target and incarcerate people of color, but it’s no secret that weed and racism go hand in hand. Though more than half of drug busts in the United States are weed-related arrests, black people are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites. To that end, some states like California have taken steps to rectify the racial disparagement and clear marijuana convictions that have been used as a tool to put mostly black offenders behind bars, some for decades.
The federal criminalization of weed dates back to the early 1930s and is most commonly attributed to Harry Anslinger, the “racist hate-monger,” credited for spearheading the federal government’s war on drugs. Anslinger, who led the Federal Narcotics Bureau, was the bigoted powerhouse behind stringent drug laws and prison sentences.
Anslinger built his prohibition campaign by propagandizing marijuana and connecting it’s use with race and violence. Besides claiming that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men” he also asserted that “most” marijuana smokers in the U.S. were “Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos,” and entertainers.
“Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use,” he was quoted as saying. “This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
Anslinger’s hard work helped push the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act into effect, and set a racial standard by which the justice system continues to abide by to this day.
Schumer, however, appears to be trying to break the cycle. See more below.
The time has come to decriminalize marijuana. 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. pic.twitter.com/EIHgsI8j6C
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2018