Several women politicians have taken up the task of reforming federal cannabis law. Join us as we explore the women in politics who are helping drive cannabis reform efforts.
With the push for major cannabis reform now at full throttle, several women politicians are spearheading efforts to expand legal access and address the devastating effects of the War on Drugs. Among Americans, support for cannabis is higher than ever before, and this has prompted some politicians to more actively pursue new marijuana policies.
For the first time, federal marijuana legalization no longer appears as a question of will it happen, but when. Here we highlight six women in politics who are leading the charge for cannabis reform at the federal level.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has been a relentless advocate for cannabis reform over her 21-year tenure in Congress. The most exciting of her pro-cannabis efforts, however, have come recently. Last month, Lee was named as co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers formed to advocate for cannabis reform legislation. Over the next couple of years, the group will focus on promoting policies that support medical marijuana research and address the racial injustices of the War on Drugs.
Just last week, Lee, along with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), introduced a House version of Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, a groundbreaking bill that would not only legalize marijuana federally but also attempt to reverse the damage done to those who were prosecuted for marijuana use.
On the same day, she also introduced the Restraining Excessive Federal Enforcement & Regulations of Cannabis (REFER) Act, which would ban the use of federal funding by any agency to interfere in state and local marijuana laws, and the Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (RESPECT) Resolution, a bill that encourages “states and localities to adopt best practices and take bold steps to address disparities in the cannabis marketplace and to address, reverse, and repair the effects of the war on drugs on communities of color.”
Lee sees her work for cannabis legislation as part of a broader effort to reform criminal justice policies. While continuing to fight for legalization and cannabis access, she has said her goals include addressing racial disparities in the young legal marijuana industry.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a woman in the Senate who is more supportive of cannabis reform than Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). While initially she was unenthusiastic about cannabis and even declined to endorse Massachusetts’s legalization ballot initiative in 2016, over recent years her position shifted demonstrably in favor and she now regularly champions reform policies.
Warren has not had the chance to vote on any cannabis reform bills during her time in the Senate, yet she tirelessly pushes for reform legislation. Last year, she introduced with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, a bill that would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to protect state-legal marijuana operations from federal interference.
Warren has also co-sponsored two wide-reaching cannabis reform bills filed by Sen. Cory Booker, including the Marijuana Justice Act and the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, a piece of legislation that would reclassify cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, protect medical marijuana states, allow for cannabis business banking, and open medical cannabis access to veterans. She also signed on to sponsor a marijuana descheduling bill by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and legislation from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) that would permit the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the potential benefits of cannabis for veterans.
When there was a hint of a federal crackdown on legal cannabis states in 2018, Warren helped spearhead a letter to Donald Trump, encouraging him to direct the Justice Department to continue with their hands-off approach. With nine other Senators, she also submitted a letter to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, urging it to not go after banks that service cannabis-related businesses in states where marijuana is legal.
Warren, now a 2020 presidential candidate, has developed into one of Congress’ leading cannabis advocates.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)