Schumer: In 2018, I was the first member of the Democratic leadership to come out in support of ending the federal prohibition. I’m sure you ask, “Well what changed?” Well, my thinking evolved. When a few of the early states — Oregon and Colorado — wanted to legalize, all the opponents talked about the parade of horribles: Crime would go up. Drug use would go up. Everything bad would happen.
The legalization of states worked out remarkably well. They were a great success. The parade of horribles never came about, and people got more freedom. And people in those states seem very happy.
I think the American people started speaking with a clear message — more than two to one — that they want the law changed. When a state like South Dakota votes by referendum to legalize, you know something is out there.
Was there a specific moment or a specific experience that you can point to and say, “This is when I started to see this issue differently?”
A while back — I can’t remember the exact year — I was in Denver. I just started talking to people, not just elected officials, but just average folks.
[They said] it benefited the state, and [didn’t] hurt the state. There were tax revenues, but people had freedom to do what they wanted to do, as long as they weren’t hurting other people. That’s part of what America is about. And they were exultant in it.
What difference does the fact that the Senate is now controlled by Democrats make for legalization, and is 51 votes enough to pass the bill that you’re about to propose?
Probably the most important power of the majority leader is the ability to put bills on the floor. And the fact that I am introducing a bill, and the fact that people will know that there will be a vote on this sooner or later — that’s the big difference.
Even when states were for this, if [then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell wouldn’t bring the bill up, their senators were never challenged: “How are you going to vote?” And they could say, “Well … I don’t know.” They don’t have to say anything. And so the fact that every member will know once we introduce this legislation — not only that it has my support, but that it will come to the floor for a vote — is going to help move things forward in a very strong way.