Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said that marijuana legalization must happen at the federal level so that individual states aren’t able to continue to disproportionately enforce prohibition against communities of color.
In an interview with BET, a clip of which was posted on Wednesday, the freshman congresswoman said “it’s important for us to [legalize cannabis] federally and not allow for the states to pick and choose, because what happens is you will have a state where someone is publicly and professionally able to profit, and in the next state someone could be sentenced to life for it.”
“We want to make sure that there is equality in our laws,” she said. “I don’t think it’s just for that kind of economy that exists within this policy [of conflicting state marijuana laws].”
Omar—who is a cosponsor of legislation to deschedule cannabis and penalize states that carry out prohibition in a discriminatory way as well as a separate bill that would mandate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs study the therapeutic potential of cannabis for veterans—said the country is now having “the broader conversation after legalization.”
“How do you allow the people who have been the most impacted by these harmful policies to now sort of get reparations and be the ones that are set up to benefit from the system now working?” she said. “I think these are parallel conversations.”
Their contributions to the legalization movement “will center black and brown people in getting opportunities to start the businesses that will be generated after we legalize,” Omar said.