LOS ANGELES - U.S. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer announced legislation Wednesday to legalize marijuana at the federal level and remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances.
"For justice and for freedom, it makes eminent, eminent sense to legalize marijuana," Schumer announced during a press conference Wednesday.
"The opponents had listed this parade of horribles — drug use will go up, crime will go up. Well that didn’t happen. None of those parade of horribles ever occurred," Schumer said.
Since 2012, 18 states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Meanwhile, 37 states have legalized medical marijuana. However, the drug remains illegal under federal law.
"As more and more states legalize marijuana, it’s time for our federal cannabis law to catch up," Schumer continued.
The proposed bill would also expunge federal records of nonviolent cannabis offenders.
"People shouldn’t have to live with a criminal record the rest of their lives. Expunge those records," Schumer said.
In December, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would federally decriminalize marijuana, provide various forms of relief to nonviolent federal marijuana convictions, and reinvest in communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.
The Democratic-controlled House voted 228-164 to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or the MORE Act. The federal cannabis reform bill was the first of its kind in either chamber of Congress.
"The passage of the MORE Act is a critical first step in ending marijuana prohibition and empowering our nation’s health experts to advance an evidence-based, public health-focused approach to American drug policy," the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit dedicated to drug policy and criminal justice reform, said in a statement.
At the federal level, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug — along with other substances like Heroin, LSD and ecstasy. But Americans are increasingly embracing marijuana across party lines.
A Gallup Poll released last month indicated that 68% are in favor of legalizing marijuana — double the approval rate in 2003.
Last November, voters approved a series of cannabis ballot measures in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and Mississippi. Marijuana was legalized for adult use in 15 states and medical use in 36 states.
"This gets the government out of the prohibition business and incentives states to move to legalization as many already have," said NORML, a nonprofit working to reform marijuana laws since 1970.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. Kelly Hayes contributed.