Minnesota Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) on Thursday touted her new marijuana legalization bill on the floor of the House during her speech on racial justice. Smith introduced her “Substance Regulation and Safety Act” in late July in a fresh bid to end cannabis prohibition. The Senator said decriminalizing marijuana could help law enforcement dedicate more resources to serious crimes.
Improve public safety
The Democratic Senator added it’s high time the federal government stopped criminalizing people in a racially disparate manner.
We could actually improve public safety by devoting resources to combating violent crime, rather than over-enforcing low-level offences in communities of colour. Let’s think about what this means for marijuana offences. The federal marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that contributes to mass incarceration and over-policing of communities of colour, Smith said.
In her speech, Smith reiterated that white and black people use cannabis at nearly the same rate, but black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for a marijuana offence. She emphasized that the federal government is behind both state law and public opinion. But the push for marijuana legalization is gaining momentum every day, with some 42 states and the District of Columbia already having some form of marijuana use, regardless of the longtime federal ban.
In addition to her own recently introduced marijuana legalization bill, the Senator also called on the Congress to clear a separate bill that she co-sponsored—The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.
Scraping marijuana-related convictions
Smith added that the MORE Act aims to address the devastating impact on communities of colour of a war on drugs by expunging marijuana-related convictions and then reinvesting in the community.
It is time to legalize marijuana, and we should do it in a practical and commonsense way that protects the health and safety and the civil rights of our communities, added Senator Smith.
In her own bill, the Senator seeks to have marijuana “regulated to protect the health and safety of youth, of consumers and of drivers. We do this without replicating the racist enforcement patterns of our current drug policy.”
During her speech, Smith mentioned several other proposals regarding policing reform and racial justice. She mentioned the introduction of another bill that aims to “help state, local, and tribal governments reimagine policing in their communities by funding innovative projects and best practices that will transform how we deliver public safety and other services.”