The 2020 presidential candidate seems to know that endorsing cannabis legalization is just smart politics.
Just last month, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in her formal launch speech, had criticized a criminal justice system that "puts people in prison for smoking marijuana while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma, who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people, to walk away scot-free with their coffers full.”
And on Thursday, she introduced the legislation in Congress to end the federal prohibition of marijuana.
# of people arrested for marijuana law violation in 2017: 659,700— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) 7 March 2019
# of those charged with marijuana law violations arrested for possession only: 599,282 (90.8 percent)
I intro'd bipartisan bill today to END THE FEDERAL MARIJUANA PROHIBITION. Congress must act now #EndTheDrugWar pic.twitter.com/vbMV01nSRv
According to Forbes, Gabbard and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) are teaming up to file two new cannabis bills. One would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act—a process known as descheduling—so that states can set their own laws without interference.
Now, this might sound very promising to a lot of people, and the 2020 presidential candidate seems to know that this is going to be seen as a smart move.
As president, I will put service above self—the interests of the American people above any personal interests—and stand up against the powerful forces of greed and corruption. #TULSI2020 https://t.co/BeCPNj82fO pic.twitter.com/2UeLLGz41f— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) 4 March 2019
"The fact that marijuana's still a Schedule I drug is unacceptable in the harm that it is causing to the people of our country and to taxpayers as well," Gabbard said this week.
"The impact this has on individuals, potentially leading to criminal records that impact them, their families, their ability to get a job, housing, financial aid for college—the impacts of this are great," she said of the hundreds of thousands of arrests for cannabis offenses that take place every year in the U.S. "That's not to speak of the impact on states, small businesses and banks in those states that have legalized some level of marijuana."
Today @repdonyoung and I introduced the only bipartisan legislation in Congress that reschedules marijuana thereby ending the federal prohibition. This is long overdue. We must end the failed War on Drugs before we lose another generation to this war. https://t.co/wgaFKGqYeX— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) 7 March 2019
The other house proposal from the duo will require the federal government to carefully look at the impact of state marijuana legalization policies. "There are still a lot of myths and outdated information and stigma that are being used as excuses to not push forward these very impactful policy changes," Gabbard said.
The legislation, under which several federal agencies would be tasked with compiling information on the economic, health, criminal justice and employment effects of state cannabis laws, would generate "one central study providing facts on what the impacts have already proven to be in states that have legalized marijuana at one level or another," the congresswoman said.
In 2017 alone, our country arrested 600,000 people just for possession of marijuana. Our bipartisan legislation takes a step toward ending the failed War on Drugs, ending the federal prohibition on marijuana, and ensuring that our policies are guided by facts and the truth.— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) 7 March 2019
She said that "freedom of choice" is a key reason she has focused so much on cannabis during her time on Capitol Hill.
"I don't smoke marijuana. I never have," she said.
"But I believe firmly in every person's freedom to make their own choices, and that people should not be thrown in jail and incarcerated or made into criminals for choosing to smoke marijuana whether it be for medicinal and non-medicinal purposes."
Our archaic marijuana policies– based on stigma and outdated myths–have been used to wage a failed War on Drugs. Families have been torn apart, communities left fractured, and over-criminalization and mass incarceration have become the norm. https://t.co/KuG384QhnJ— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) 7 March 2019
When it comes to marijuana, Gabbard believes that Congress is well-positioned to advance far-reaching reform bills this year, at least through one chamber. And she believes her home state of Hawaii—where a bill to legalize marijuana was approved by a legislative committee last month—is on track to end cannabis prohibition sooner rather than later.
I rise today to honor the life of my friend, Congressman Walter Jones, Jr., a man who was known by all of us throughout his many years of serving through this chamber for his kindness, his southern charm and his big heart, his fierce independence, and his pursuit of peace. pic.twitter.com/5rjCEPCJJW— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) 6 March 2019
"We are hopeful that there will be a great opportunity to pass pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives given that we have the majority," she said, referring to Democrats.
"We will have some more work to do to get these bill through the Senate. But if members of Congress, and leaders in Washington listen to the voices of the vast majority of Americans in this country, they will hear the calls for action that go beyond partisanship. We are long past time to bring about this kind of change," She continued.
We must never forget our dark and bloodied past, & the heroes who changed the course of our nation by courageously leading with love to defeat the hatred & violence that surrounded them. They inspire us to continue the march toward justice, equality & freedom #WeShallOvercome pic.twitter.com/4KRkAsRXqf— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) 4 March 2019
"The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019 is our opportunity to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances list and to allow our states the freedom to regulate marijuana as they choose, without federal inference," they wrote in a letter asking colleagues to cosponsor the descheduling legislation.
Meanwhile, several senators who are also seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination joined together last week to file far-reaching legislation that would deschedule marijuana. That bill also contains provisions aimed at expungements and investment in communities previously harmed by the war on drugs.
A national poll released on Wednesday found that 60 percent of voters support legalizing marijuana.