Bipartisan lawmakers push for marijuana reform in reform law debate

If Kentucky Rep. Charles Booker (D) wins his primary run for the US Senate (And Tuesday’s early ballot election put him in the lead so far), the general election showdown through November You will see the candidate in favor of legalizing marijuana. against one of the most powerful obstacles to reform in Congress: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Primary elections have yet to be called, but as the votes are counted, Booker is currently ahead by about four percentage points against competitor Amy McGrath, a military veteran who supports legalizing medical cannabis but is calling for studies. additional before I back more reform.

Booker, who also supports the broader decriminalization of drug possession, made clear in a speech on Election Night that he would prioritize marijuana reform in the Senate if he defeats the Republican corps leader on Election Day. .

“We deserve a community where we do not criminalize a plant, where we do not throw away people suffering from pain and trauma, where we are not dealing with one of the highest incarceration rates on the planet because we criminalize poverty,” he said. “We can break these chains, and we have to do it.”

Watch Booker talk about the need to end the criminalization of marijuana below, starting around 9:50:

Nor is it just campaign rhetoric.

During his time in the Kentucky House, the legislator has been the primary sponsor of two bills to decriminalize cannabis possession, including one that would have provided for the removal of previous marijuana convictions. This year’s version would have, so the fine for possessing up to 100 grams of marijuana would be a $ 100 fine.

He was a co-sponsor of legislation to legalize medical cannabis in the state that was cleared by the House in February, but then stalled in the Senate.

Another medical marijuana bill that he co-sponsored last year passed outside the committee, but made no further progress.

Booker was also one of three co-sponsors of a bill to legalize marijuana for adult use that failed. It would have created a licensed business system to grow, process, transport and sell cannabis and would allow people to get a $ 250 permit to grow up to five mature plants and five seedlings at home. He also proposed a process to eliminate minor cannabis offenses.

“The full legalization and decriminalization of marijuana will allow us to empower people rather than prosecute them; It will allow us to spend less taxpayer dollars to unnecessarily lock people up and generate much needed additional revenue for state and local governments; and it will give us a non-opioid solution for people suffering from pain, ”says her campaign website.

When it comes to a post-ban world, Booker wants to make sure that the drug war target communities are integrated.

On social media, the candidate has constantly discussed drug policy reform, calling legalization and decriminalization as a priority of criminal justice reform.

He has also spoken more broadly about the need to treat drug use as a health problem, rather than with a criminal justice approach.

“Charles also supports the broader decriminalization of drug use and increased treatment supports for people convicted of drug-related offenses,” says his campaign website. “To ensure that the goal of our justice system is to help people heal and not benefit from the prison industrial complex, Charles supports the end of private prisons.”

Meanwhile, McGrath has also discussed cannabis policy on his social media accounts and campaign site, although his proposals and statements have not been as extensive.

In 2018, he voiced support for a group of veterans calling for the federal reprogramming of marijuana and said he should step up research on the plant’s possible therapeutic benefits.

In a veterans-focused section of her campaign site, she states that “veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD report better health outcomes from medicinal cannabis.”

“I agree with the American Legion in calling for the removal of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug and allowing its use to treat ailments faced by veterans and others,” said McGrath. “It can also alleviate dependence on opioids for pain relief, and that’s only a significant reason to consider moving in that direction.”

However, unlike Booker, she is not ready to support the full legalization of marijuana.

“On the subject of full legalization, I would like to see our government allow a full investigation into the matter,” McGrath said in a Facebook post. “The classification in Annex 1 means that we cannot even carry out studies on the effect of legalization. Maybe it’s the military officer in me, but it’s all about careful planning and investigation before I head-first to fully open that door. ”

If Booker prevails in his primary career when all the votes are counted, drug policy will represent a significant area of ​​contrast between him and McConnell, who has championed and campaigned for hemp legalization, but continues to denounce what he calls the “illicit cousin” of the crop. marijuana.

But like McConnell, the state legislator and aspiring challenger has also shown his appreciation for the innovation of the Kentucky hemp market. In 2016, for example, he shared a picture of a menu with “hemp-infused beef hot dogs” at the Kentucky State Fair.

“Yes, that happened today!” he said.

Black Virginia lawmakers push to legalize marijuana in special session this summer

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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