Chuck Schumer wants to decriminalize marijuana. In fact, he is proposing legislation on the subject. However, as the New York Times reports, “the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans are opposed, and it is unlikely to become law in the near future. President Biden has not endorsed it, and some moderate Democrats are likely to balk at the implications of decriminalizing a drug that has been policed and stigmatized for so long.”
The obvious question is why propose such sweeping legislation when you know it is going to fail? The answer is obvious, politics.
Schumer is looking at the 2022 election. He is developing a message on marijuana because he is aware of poll numbers showing bipartisan support for legalization. The Pew Research Center reports that “an overwhelming share of U.S. adults (91%) say either that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use (60%) or that it should be legal for medical use only (31%). Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) say marijuana should not be legal for use by adults.” Polling also shows there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue with “47% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents favor legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use, while an additional 40% say it should only be legal for medical use. By comparison, 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use, and an additional 23% say it should be legal for medical use only.” (The Pew Research Center). However, these poll numbers demonstrate support for decriminalization crosses party lines. Schumer believes the issue is an important campaign issue that can be used to help Democrats keep their majorities in both The Senate and The House.
Will elections be won on the marijuana issue? Maybe not, but it is an element of a greater message that Democrats are concerned issues impacting working people. Framing the decriminalization issue as a part of the larger message that Democrats care about working Americans is a key element to the overall 2022 campaign.
Schumer’s proposal is, consequently, purely political because he knows the likelihood of success is slim. The proof will be in how hard Schumer pushes the legislation in the Senate to successfully turn the proposal into law.