Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is planning to introduce a bill on Friday that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, he said in a new interview with VICE News.
“The legislation is long overdue based on, you know, a bunch of different facts. I’ve seen too many people’s lives ruined because they had small amounts of marijuana and served time in jail much too long,” Schumer said in a video clip shared by VICE News on Thursday. “Ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?”
Matt House, Schumer’s communications director, said in a tweet that the Senator will unveil the bill on Friday — 4/20, a day that has become a celebration of marijuana. House teased the interview with a photo of Schumer signing a bong for VICE’s Shawna Thomas, who conducted the interview. The full interview aired at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
Schumer had previously been hesitant to support legalizing marijuana at the federal level. “It’s a tough issue. We talk about the comparison to alcohol — and obviously alcohol is legal, and I’m hardly a prohibitionist — but it does a lot of damage,” Schumer said in an MSNBC interview in 2014. “The view I have — and I’m a little cautious on this — is let’s see how the state experiments work.”
“I’d be a little cautious here at the federal level and see the laboratories of the states — see their outcomes before we make a decision,” Schumer added.
Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, and six states have followed since then. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has begun to crack down on the marijuana industry this year, angering lawmakers and cannabis growers in states where it is legal.
Schumer hinted Thursday that he has changed his mind on the issue, tweeting, “People can change.”