NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York Congressman Jerry Nadler is ready to call for a historic committee vote on legalizing marijuana nationwide, but it’s far from certain Congress will approve his bill.

Advocates say they’ll continue to press for action at the state level.

Eleven states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational pot, even though the U.S. government still treats it as illegal.

Now, Nadler, the powerful Democratic Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is ready to roll with his bill to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances.

“Marijuana would be decriminalized at the federal level. States will have the ability to regulate marijuana use even maintain criminal prohibitions if they choose to do so,” he said.

Nadler predicts his bill will pass the judiciary committee with some Republican votes.

Watch — Rep. Nadler Discusses Marijuana Decriminalization


But even if the Democrat-controlled House passes the bill, few believe the GOP-controlled Senate is ready to significantly reform marijuana laws.

So top Democrats in New Jersey want a public referendum next year on legalizing pot there, while New York lawmakers will reintroduce their plan in Albany.

Sen. David Carlucci: “Marijuana is out there. It needs to be regulated. It needs to be in a place that’s safe.”
CBS2’s Tony Aiello: “They’re gonna hold a referendum on legalizing marijuana in New Jersey, but New York doesn’t really work that way.”
Carlucci: “It’s difficult to do a referendum in New York. We don’t have the structure to do that.”

Nadler’s federal bill would expunge marijuana convictions and put a 5% federal tax on pot sales to fund a variety of programs serving “individuals most adversely impacted by the war on drugs.”

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies, is a co-sponsor, but Nadler admits there’s little chance the bill advances until after the November 2020 election.

The group New Jersey United For Marijuana Reform is slamming the referendum plan announced by top Democrats in Trenton. They want the General Assembly to pass legislation rather than let voters decide.