Green wave: Elizabeth Warren predicts Democrats will decriminalize marijuana if they win Senate

Elizabeth Warren thinks a Democratic Senate will pass a bill ending the federal ban on weed

By Matthew Rozsa
Published August 31, 2018 2:25PM (EDT)
Elizabeth Warren; Chuck Schumer; Kirsten Gillibrand (Getty/AP/Photo Montage by Salon)
Elizabeth Warren; Chuck Schumer; Kirsten Gillibrand (Getty/AP/Photo Montage by Salon)

Less than a week after it was revealed that President Donald Trump had secretly created a marijuana task force — one entrusted with both cracking down on states that have legalized marijuana and spreading anti-marijuana propaganda — a new interview with a 2020 presidential contender suggests that Democrats are determined to end the federal prohibition as a central part of their agenda if they reclaim the Senate in November.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is a co-sponsor of the STATES Act, a legislative measure that if passed would end the federal ban on the drug and allow individual states to decide for themselves whether or not they want it to be legalized. Nine states and Washington DC have legalized marijuana for recreational as well as medical uses, while nearly two dozen others have legalized it for medical uses. Yet although Trump has previously said that he would be okay with allowing individual states to decide what to do on marijuana policy, the creation of the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee and the staunchly anti-marijuana positions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions make it questionable at best whether he actually means that.

"I care about this marijuana bill because I care about people in my home state who are at risk for getting arrested by Jeff Sessions for either buying marijuana or running a marijuana business," Warren told Rolling Stone. "And I also care about when a state decides that marijuana should be legalized either for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes, or both, that the state ought to be the one who controls here. And that’s what this STATES Act is all about."

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Warren also insisted that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who could be expected to become Senate Majority Leader if Democrats capture the Senate, would support her legislation, which she has taken the lead on along with a Republican colleague, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.

"So Chuck has supported this," Warren said. "I have to say I don’t think we’ve specifically [asked him]. But Chuck has supported this. I feel confident that if the Democrats recapture the Senate we’ll get a vote on this, and the vote will carry. I think we’ve got the votes for this."

Warren depicted the biggest obstacle to the bill right now as being not partisanship from Republicans but the specific anti-marijuana ideology of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"So the way over that hurdle is to get enough Republicans to push Mitch McConnell," Warren said. "And we’ve been bringing people on to our bill two by two; a little like Noah’s Ark: A Democrat and a Republican join hands and become cosponsors on our bill. We now have multiple cosponsors [in the Senate]. We have lots on the House side. In other words, we have a lot of people on McConnell’s team who are pushing McConnell to do this."

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Jeff Sessions Marijuana Marijuana Legalization