U.S Senator Tina Smith Introduces Marijuana Reform Legislation to Protect Health, Safety, Civil Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. [08/3/20]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to address health and safety considerations for implementing the legalization of marijuana at the federal level. As a complement to critical work to address the racist impacts of the failed federal prohibition on marijuana, Sen. Smith’s Substance Regulation and Safety Act of 2020 (SRSA) will ensure that the federal legalization process protects the health and safety of consumers, patients, drivers, and youth. 

The bill would remove marijuana from the nation’s list of illegal controlled substances, ensure the same federal oversight of marijuana products as tobacco and alcohol now have, and put racially-sensitive safeguards in place to combat cannabis use by people under 21. It would also put in place measures to ensure the safety of marijuana products, require research into how best to combat cannabis-impaired driving, and to govern the safe import and export of cannabis products.

“The federal prohibition on marijuana is a failed policy that contributes to mass incarceration and the racist overpolicing of communities of color. It is time to end that policy,” said Sen. Smith. “In addition to addressing the harmful and racist legacy of the War on Drugs by passing bills like Senator Harris’ Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, we must address marijuana legalization in a manner that ensures that cannabis and cannabis products are safe, regulated, and well-researched.”

Specifically, the SRSA Act would do the following:

  • Remove the federal prohibition on marijuana, by taking it off the list of illegal controlled substances from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, especially since 42 states and the District of Columbia already allow marijuana use.
  • Grant the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate cannabis and cannabis products, including regarding labeling and advertising standards – just as it does for tobacco products.
  • Establish 21 years of age as the minimum age for purchasing cannabis products, in line with tobacco and alcohol.
  • Establish a national strategy to combat the use and abuse of cannabis by youth, with special considerations to prevent racially disparate impacts of the strategy.
  • Promote the safety and quality control of cannabis crops.
  • Require regulations to govern the safe import and export of cannabis materials.
  • Require transportation safety research to establish an evidence-based standard for detecting cannabis-impaired driving, and to ensure that recommended best practices do not contribute to racist enforcement patterns. 

A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that two thirds of Americans support the legalization of cannabis for recreational or medicinal use, and as of January, 2020, 42 states and the District of Columbia allow some type of marijuana use, despite the federal prohibition.

You can access a summary of the bill here and bill text here.