Minnesota’s Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar recently announced that the federal government should begin marijuana legalization throughout the nation. Her reasoning? She believes it will create more economic equality.
Should the federal government play a role in state marijuana laws?
According to the Star Tribune, Omar told BET that the government should be in charge of keeping “consistency” among the states. Specifically, she doesn’t believe that Washington officials should “allow for the states to pick and choose” whether they will legalize the drug.
Eleven states in the U.S. currently allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Washington, D.C. has also legalized the drug. Half of these states also allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Washington and Colorado were the first two states to regulate marijuana. This ultimately led to several other states following suit in varying degrees. The specifics surrounding the rules and regulations are different among states.
The federal government has always maintained that marijuana is not “medically necessary.” They consider it an illegal substance that is just as problematic as drugs like heroin and cocaine. But individual states have clearly begun to override this kind of thinking. People like Omar believe that it’s time for the federal government to also start changing its tune.
State Marijuana Legalization: Does it Create Inequality?
What Omar means is that the U.S. must fully legalize marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes.
“What happens without full legalization,” she told BET, “is you will have a state where someone is publicly and professionally able to profit and the next state, someone could be sent to life in prison for it.”
Omar’s Next Steps
Omar hopes to begin eliminating some of these issues with The Marijuana Justice Act. The act is a legislation seeking to rid marijuana form the federal list of controlled substances. It also aims to remove past federal convictions for those who have been charged with possession or use of marijuana. Lawmakers believe that these convictions stand directly in the way of the pursuit to rehabilitate former prisoners and drug addicts.
Currently, this legislation has the support of several prominent U.S. Senators, including Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, all of whom are in the race for the 2020 presidential nomination. However, the bill has not yet been able to receive a hearing in either chamber of Congress.