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Barbara Lee Files Three Pieces Of Social Justice Marijuana Legislation In One Day

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Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced three wide-ranging marijuana bills in Congress on Thursday.

The congresswoman, who was named as a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus last month, re-filed legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition, bar the federal government from using funds to interfere in state-legal marijuana programs and encourage reform policies to help communities of color participate in the legal market.

“For far too long, our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in the past. As the public’s views toward marijuana have evolved, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our policies are fair, equitable and inclusive,” Lee said in a press release. “Sadly, while some have benefited from recent reforms to state and local cannabis laws, people of color, veterans and other underrepresented communities have been locked out of this progress.”

“Today, I will be introducing three bills to modernize our federal cannabis policies and ensure that everyone can participate in this emerging industry.”

The text of the latest versions of these pieces of legislation are not yet available online, but here’s a summary of what they would accomplish based on the text of earlier versions filed last Congress:

—The Marijuana Justice Act would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and penalize states where marijuana enforcement is carried out in a racially disproportionate manner. It has 30 initial cosponsors. (A new version was filed in the Senate as well on Thursday, with several competing Democratic presidential candidates teaming up to cosponsor the legislation.)

—The Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement & Regulations of Cannabis (REFER) Act “prohibits the use of funds made available by Congress to a federal department or agency” to intervene in state-legal marijuana programs or penalize financial institutions that service the cannabis industry. It has six initial cosponsors.

—The Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (RESPECT) Resolution encourages “states and localities to adopt best practices and take bold steps to address disparities in the cannabis marketplace and to address, reverse, and repair the effects of the war on drugs on communities of color.” It has five initial cosponsors.

In the prior 115th Congress, the Marijuana Justice Act collected 43 House cosponsors.

“The prohibition of marijuana has had a devastating effect on communities of color,” Lee said in an email to NORML members promoting the new version of the legislation. “The Marijuana Justice Act would deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and seek to correct these racial disparities in arrests and sentencing.”

Lee has been a strong advocate for cannabis reform over her tenure in Congress.

Last month, she responded to people who consider marijuana a silly issue and said “the work is very important and those who know what I’m doing, they really understand that this is cutting edge—that we’re going to build support and we’re going to win this because the American people want it, states have passed it and you want to do it in a way that makes sense and that’s lawful and will help everybody.”

But the congresswoman disappointed some reform advocates after she gave Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a former prosecutor who only relatively recently backed legalizing marijuana, an early endorsement of her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Legalization Supporters Slam Kamala Harris Endorsement From Marijuana Reform Champion Barbara Lee

Photo element courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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