Senate Democrats — including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — are making a push to federally decriminalize marijuana.
The effort would remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances. That would kick the regulation and the legalization of marijuana fully to the states.
The Democrats also aim to expunge federal criminal records for non-violent marijuana offenses. They also want to lift burdens that force medical marijuana and other cannabis businesses to operate on cash only or via alternative financial systems. These are all good ideas.
There is support for marijuana legalization nationally and in Maryland — which punted on legalization cannabis for recreational use this year.
The question is how serious are Democrats and President Joe Biden when it comes legalizing weed, reforming drug laws and ending the “War on Drugs.”
A de-facto or outright federal legalization of pot will also be accompanied by inevitable taxes and regulations. Support from Schumer and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is important.
A parliamentary ruling previously stymied a Senate vote on a House legalization measure. A new Senate bid will have to overcome GOP and potentially some centrist Democratic opposition.
Needed changes to federal marijuana and other drug laws may also have to happen without strong support from the White House. President Biden has never been a fan of marijuana legalization. His lengthy tenure in the Senate includes support for past crime bills and restrictive drug laws.
Like many on both sides of the aisle in Washington, Biden long supported punitive and restrictive drug laws.
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party and libertarian wing of the GOP strongly support marijuana legalization.
But there is establishment resistance and conservative opposition. Libertarians need to press their conservative counterparts on the issue.
Legalization advocates aligned with Democrats and supportive of Biden also need to be willing and ready to put pressure on their allies.
That will be a test of whether those left-leaning advocates are honest brokers on policy or if they are partisans who toe the party line just because the current White House occupant is not Donald Trump.
We all know the country is ready to legalize marijuana. It needs to happen responsibly and with a focus on local growers and dispensaries in Maryland. It needs to happen with a focus on criminal justice reforms at the federal and state levels.
The new effort is welcomed. Now let’s see if the Democrats are serious about it and where Biden lands.