Pot legalization question to appear on ballot

(WAND) – A bill to federally legalize marijuana has backing from an Illinois lawmaker and others.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) in backing what’s called the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act. It would remove marijuana from the federal scheduled substances list (U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970) and keep other protections intact.

Under the bill, states would still be able to choose how to handle the drug. Federal investigators would keep the authority to stop trafficking to states where marijuana remains illegal.

“Far too many Americans are currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses and they are disproportionally people of color, despite the fact that African-Americans and Caucasians use marijuana at the same rates,” said Duckworth. “For years, the federal government has permitted states to determine their own policies regarding marijuana, and we've seen those states' economies grow while justice and fairness have improved as well. I'm proud to join Senator Schumer in this effort.”

Public safety would remain a priority, with the bill setting aside $250 million over five years for research into highway safety and the effects of driving while under the effects of THC. Some of the money would go to improving technology that can measure a person’s impairment. Another $500 million over five years would address public health – specifically the effects of THC on the brain and the reliability of marijuana-based medical treatments.

The bill also directs the Department of the Treasury to regulate marijuana advertising to ensure children aren’t targeted as possible customers. It would create punishments for violations of those rules. Lawmakers also seek to “level the playing field” in the industry by creating funding to allow minority-owned businesses and women better access.

“The time to decriminalize marijuana is now,” said Sen. Schumer. “The new Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act is about giving states the freedom to be the laboratories that they should be and giving Americans – especially women and minority business owners as well as those convicted of simple possession of marijuana intended for personal use- the opportunity to succeed in today’s economy. This legislation is simply the right thing to do and I am hopeful that the balanced approach it takes can earn bipartisan support in Congress and across the country.” 

A fact sheet on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, along with its full text, can be found below PDF documents.