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Sen. Tina Smith introduces federal bill to legalize marijuana

The legislation would legalize and regulate marijuana similar to alcohol and tobacco.

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota has introduced a bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use nationwide.

Smith announced she had introduced the Substance Regulation and Safety Act of 2020 on Monday. The bill would remove marijuana from the country’s list of controlled illegal substances and instead regulate it for recreational use similar to alcohol and tobacco.

The bill includes provisions such as establishing a legal marijuana consumption age of 21 and giving the FDA authority to regulate the substance, including labeling and advertising. The legislation would also establish a strategy to combat abuse by minors and a plan to prevent racial disparities in enforcement.

Currently, the legalization of marijuana sales is a matter for states, but Smith argues that the federal ban has "failed" and that Congress should consider the historical racial impacts of the enforcement of marijuana laws when looking at legalizing the substance.

“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, adding that "we must address marijuana legalization in a manner that ensures that cannabis and cannabis products are safe, regulated, and well-researched.”

The bill would also require research into a standard strategy for detecting marijuana-impaired driving.

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Smith points out that 42 states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

In Minnesota, Democratic state lawmakers have pushed a recreational marijuana bill for the last few years. After failing in a Republican-controlled committee last year, the bill was again introduced in May.

State lawmakers have also pointed to the disparities in marijuana enforcement for people of color in Minnesota.

A May report from the ACLU found that Minnesota is the 8th worst state in the country for racial disparities in marijuana arrests, with Black Minnesotans being arrested more frequently than their white counterparts despite similar rates of use. 

Smith is up for re-election this November, with her Republican opponent likely to be the former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis.

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