Chuck Schumer calls 4/20 an 'unofficial American holiday' as he makes the case for marijuana legalization

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Oma Seddiq
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chuck schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called 4/20 an "unofficial American holiday."

  • The top Democrat made his case to "end the federal prohibition on marijuana."

  • April 20 is usually a day weed users celebrate the recreational drug.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

As weed users across the country celebrate April 20 on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer marked the occasion as an "unofficial American holiday" and made his case for marijuana legalization.

"Today is what you might call a very unofficial American holiday: 4/20," the top Democrat said on the Senate floor Tuesday. "It's as appropriate a time as any to take a hard look at our laws that have over-criminalized the use of marijuana and put it on par with heroin, LSD and other narcotics that bear little or no resemblance in their effects either on individuals or on society more broadly."

Schumer described the disproportionate effect that drug laws have had on people of color over the past decades, prompting the need for a "comprehensive reform effort."

Young men and women "have been arrested and jailed for even carrying a small amount of marijuana - a charge that often came with exorbitant penalties and a serious criminal record, from which they might never recover," Schumer said. "It makes no sense and it's time for a change."

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The New York Democrat said he soon plans to craft legislation that would "end the federal prohibition on marijuana" and "ensure restorative justice."

Marijuana arrests make up more than half of all drug arrests in the United States, according to an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union. The data showed that Black people are nearly four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana.

Public support for cannabis reform has grown in recent years as several states have moved to end restrictions on the recreational drug. A Gallup poll in November revealed that a majority of Americans -68% - are in favor of legalization.

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Thirty-six states have already legalized medical marijuana, and 16 states, along with Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for adults over the age of 21. New York, Schumer's home state, joined that list in March.

Schumer has previously made clear his intentions to act on federal marijuana legalization, even if President Joe Biden is reluctant to. Biden has yet to embrace the position.

"Hopefully the next time this unofficial holiday of 4/20 rolls around, our country will have made progress in addressing the massive over-criminalization of marijuana in a meaningful and comprehensive way," Schumer said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Biden "supports leaving decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states."

On the federal level, Biden backs "decriminalizing marijuana use and automatically expunging any prior criminal records," and "legalizing medical marijuana," Psaki added.

Read the original article on Business Insider