Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) unveiled a plan on Wednesday that would legalize recreational and medical marijuana, expunge all nonviolent marijuana convictions and “tap into the medical and economic opportunity” of the drug.
“Fundamentally, whether adults use marijuana is a matter of privacy, and we should treat marijuana as a major economic opportunity and revenue source,” Gillibrand, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, wrote in a Medium post.
Gillibrand has voiced support for legal marijuana in the past, announcing in February 2018 that she would co-sponsor a bill with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to legalize the drug nationwide in an effort to help minority communities disproportionately affected by its criminalization.
But her new plan goes further.
Recreational marijuana would be taxed, with proceeds going to “repair the damage done by the War on Drugs,” she said. Health insurance providers, including Medicaid, Medicare and the VA, would be required to cover medical marijuana, and tax revenue would be directed toward research. Extra support, in the form of “access to capital and technical assistance,” would be given to demographic groups hit hardest by marijuana criminalization.
Research has consistently shown that while marijuana usage is fairly even across demographics, the drug war’s punitive efforts have been disproportionately focused on communities of color.
“Nothing proposed today can ever undo the devastating harm done to generations of communities and families of color by the War on Drugs,” Gillibrand wrote. “But it’s long past time to start making this right.”
Nearly all of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders ― including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ― agree that marijuana should be legalized.
Currently, 10 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana, and measures are pending in other states. Some state officials, including those in California and Washington, have also moved to clear old criminal records to give their residents a fresh start.