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Elizabeth Warren Reveals New Plan To Legalize Marijuana

Elizabeth Warren won’t penalize states that don’t legalize marijuana, but only if they change their weed-related arrest disparities.

Early in the 2020 election cycle, Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination rushed to support marijuana legalization. They backed ending prohibition and the War on Drugs, with some including expungement of past marijuana-related crimes. Now, as the primary race heats up, a new trend has emerged among candidates: explaining how they would legalize marijuana if elected president.

Bernie Sanders first detailed his plans to legalize cannabis through executive action in his first day in office. According to Politico,  during a rally in Denver over the weekend, Elizabeth Warren announced plans to decrease federal funding to states prohibiting marijuana legalization and enact legislation that would protect marijuana users and markets in legal states.

According to her website:

“Legalizing marijuana is about more than just allowing recreational use, or the potential medicinal benefit, or the money that can be made from this new market. It’s about undoing a century of racist policy that disproportionately targeted Black and Latino communities. It’s about rebuilding the communities that have suffered the most harm. And it’s about ensuring that everyone has access to the opportunities that the new cannabis market provides.”

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Unlike Sanders, Warren would not legalize cannabis during her first day in office. Instead, she would appoint leaders that back marijuana legalization and Warren’s criminal justice plans at large. The organization Warren would target include the Department of Justice, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration.

elizabeth warren reveals how jeff session catalyzed marijuana legalization
Photo by Win McNamee/Staff/Getty Images

Warren wouldn’t force conservative states to legalize marijuana, either. Her goal is to reverse the disproportionate impact from the War on Drugs on communities of color. States that don’t legalize cannabis who don’t improve their racial disparity in marijuana arrest rates would see reductions in federal funding for state law enforcement. The American Civil Liberties Union reports black people are nearly four times more likely than white people when it comes to marijuana-related arrests.

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In addition, Warren wants to protect legal state marijuana markets from “Big Tobacco.” Her goal would be to “preserve market access and competition,” so that communities of color and those currently building the young cannabis industry have a chance against “Big Tobacco.”

“Legalizing marijuana gives us an opportunity to repair some of the damage caused by our current criminal justice system, to invest in the communities that have suffered the most harm, and to ensure that everyone can participate in the growing cannabis industry,” Warren’s plan concludes. “We have an opportunity now to get this right, and I’ll fight to make that happen.”

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