By Roland Sebestyén
In his first comment after the 2020 US election and the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed cannabis reform would be a part of a new racial justice agenda.
Senator Chuck Schumer, 70, has reiterated his commitment to have the authorities stop pursuing people for minor cannabis offences in the US. The Senator recently addressed his plans for racial justice, and how cannabis reform was to be interwoven in this, in an interview with MSNBC.
According to Marijuana Moment, Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: “A young man is arrested with a small amount of cannabis in his pocket. He has a criminal record the rest of his life, can’t become a productive citizen—this one won’t hire him, that won’t hire him.
“Change that. There’s lots to do, and we have to succeed.”
While Schumer didn’t commit to legalising cannabis on the federal level, he was quoted saying in October that, should the Democrats get the majority in the Senate, he would put a bill on the floor to deschedule the drug.
He said: “I’m a big fighter for racial justice, and the cannabis laws have been one of the biggest examples of racial injustice, and so to change them makes sense. And that fits in with all of the movement now to bring equality in the policing, in economics and in everything else.
“Our bill is, in a certain sense, at the nexus of racial justice, individual freedom, and states’ rights.”
During the election campaign, newly elected Vice-President Kamala Harris announced that a future Joe Biden administration would decriminalise cannabis, and the records of those have been convicted of possessing cannabis would be expunged.
In a report recently published by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), data shows that more than six million people were arrested for minor cannabis offences in the United States between 2010 and 2018. In addition, researchers at the ACLU report that “a black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than a white person,” despite there being no significant difference in rates of use.
Furthermore, the report found that, in 2018 alone, more than 700,000 people were incarcerated for offences concerning cannabis – this accounted for “more than 43%” of all drug arrests in the United States.
Over recent years, Senator Schumer has become a significant ally of cannabis reform advocates. In 2019, he supported the MORE Act – a bill that would protect banks that accept servicing applications from legal cannabis companies.