Minnesota Sen. Smith pushes for federal cannabis legalization ahead of November election

Aug 7, 2020

Federal cannabis legalization is back in the news once again, this time as Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith has introduced a new bill calling for the feds to lay off recreational marijuana. Like others before it, Smith’s proposal, the Substance Regulation and Safety Act of 2020 would regulate the plant like tobacco and alcohol.

According to reports, the bill doesn’t bring much new to the table, although it is a welcome addition to the other pieces of proposed legislation from the likes of Cory Gardner and Bernie Sanders. The new bill seeks to have the Food and Drug Administration regulate cannabis, keep the minimum age of consumption at 21, and fight abuse of drugs by minors.

There is also a focus on weeding out marijuana-impaired driving in the bill.

Smith, a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, told reporters that she sees cannabis legalization as a path to restorative justice for minorities in the country. Even though the US currently takes a federalist approach, allowing states to determine whether or not marijuana should be legal, she believes that Congress should look at the history of prohibition and it’s effect on racial discrimination.

“The federal prohibition on marijuana is a failed policy that contributes to mass incarceration and the racist over-policing of communities of color. It is time to end that policy,” Smith said in a statement. “In addition to addressing the harmful and racist legacy of the War on Drugs by passing bills like Senator Harris’ Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, we must address marijuana legalization in a manner that ensures that cannabis and cannabis products are safe, regulated, and well-researched.”

According to Smith, 42 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized the plant in some fashion. As many others have stated, it feels like federal legalization is inevitable at this point.

The bill is currently sitting in the Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, meaning, at least for the time being, it looks like it will be going nowhere. So far, Smith has found no co-sponsors for the bill.

In her home state of Minnesota, Democratic legislators have made several attempts to legalize recreational cannabis, all of which have failed at the feet of a Republican-controlled legislature. The state-level bill never made it out of committee last year, although it was re-introduced this past May.

Like the rest of the country, Minnesota suffers from racial disparities in policing when it comes to marijuana arrests. According to the ACLU, Minnesota is the 8th worst state in the country for African Americans when it comes to cannabis. They are arrested at much higher rates despite the fact that white people use the drug in similar amounts.

As some reports have noted, Smith is up for re-election in November.

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