A Republican congresswoman who made waves after introducing a bill to federally legalize marijuana this week said on Tuesday that she personally used cannabis for a short time in her youth, and it helped her get off of pharmaceutical drugs she was prescribed for depression after being raped at age 16.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) shared the story on Fox Business’s “Kennedy” after being asked whether she herself smokes marijuana.
“When I was 16, I was raped,” the congresswoman said. “I was given prescription medication that made the feelings I had of depression worse, and I stopped taking those prescription drugs and I turned to cannabis for a brief period of time in my life.”
— Kennedy (@KennedyNation) November 17, 2021
Because she was able to experience the therapeutic benefits of cannabis firsthand, Mace said she more acutely understands the need to provide access to vulnerable communities, particularly military veterans who suffer from a host of mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said he new legislative effort is “particularly protective of veterans, ensuring that they’re protected, not discriminated against and that the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] can utilize cannabis for their PTSD and their protections for PTSD,” she said.
“When I talk to vets and I see that pain, it hurts because I felt that pain before in my life,” Mace said. “Veteran suicide, we see every single day.”
Mace shared her personal story one day after formally filing the States Reform Act, legislation that would federally deschedule marijuana, allow states to make their own decisions about cannabis policy, provide a pathway for expungements for people with non-violent marijuana convictions and establish a relatively hands-off federal regulatory scheme.
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The bill is being framed as an alternative to wide-ranging Democratic legalization proposals like the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act that passed the House Judiciary Committee in September.
Also in the background, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are finalizing a separate reform bill.
As Mace alluded to in the Fox interview, her legislation does take specific steps to provide anti-discrimination protections for veterans and allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis. Also, part of the revenue that the government would receive from a three percent excise tax imposed under her bill would fund veterans mental health programs.
“I try to be very thoughtful about including measures that both conservatives and Republicans, moderates and Democrats could get along with,” she said on Tuesday. “This is a nonpartisan issue. This is common sense and pragmatic.”
Some Republicans have led, or joined their Democratic colleagues, on other marijuana bills, but they’ve generally been far more scaled back measures—simply protecting states that choose to legalize or descheduling cannabis without touching social equity issues or creating a federal tax on sales.
Mace also noted the strong public support for reform. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. adults said they back legalizing cannabis in a Gallup poll released this month—and that includes majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Yet, despite that support, President Joe Biden continues to oppose adult-use legalization. Instead, he’s supportive of more modest proposals to federally decriminalize cannabis, legalize the plant for medical use and let states set their own policies.
Whether he’d sign any Democratic- or Republican-led legalization bill is an open question.
While the president is personally against comprehensively ending prohibition, the Congressional Research Service released a report this month explaining steps he and his administration could take to repair the harms of cannabis criminalization.
Another group that isn’t keen on legalization, regardless of who’s leading on it, is the South Carolina Republican Party. Mace’s home-state party released a statement opposing the legislation shortly after its introduction.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis/Side Pocket Images.