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Gillibrand joins effort to decriminalize marijuana


An increasing number of states over the past few years have looked into legalizing marijuana. Now there is a chance pot could be removed from the list of controlled substances.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is working to draw support for the Marijuana Justice Act. In addition to removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, the act looks to incentivize states through federal funds to change laws that may unfairly impact low-income individuals and people of color.

In a Facebook Live event Wednesday, Gillibrand announced she is a co-sponsor of the measure introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in August. She said while usage is about the same between whites and blacks, marijuana laws currently have a disproportionate effect on people of color.

“I met constituents who every time they walked in their neighborhood, police are shaking them down and saying, ‘What do you have in your pocket?' In our state, in my city, if you are African American or Latina you are going to be 10 times more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana than a white member of our community,” Gillibrand said.

She is also concerned about accessibility for veterans.

“Because it’s a federal crime, they couldn’t get medical marijuana at the VA,” said Gillibrand. “It’s absurd when you meet a veteran who knows this medicine makes them healthier. Makes them able to deal with stress, anxiety and chronic pain. It’s disgraceful we can’t have basic medicine for people who need it.”

Tax revenue from legalized marijuana has proven valuable in states like Colorado. Gillibrand urged people to speak out on the issue.

“This moment is a time for activism. What’s growing right now is the grassroots,” she said. “The grassroots have an outsized influence in what’s happening. To the extent you can tell your personal story to your member of Congress, to your senator, even if it’s someone who already agrees with you, it only makes our job easier because the more we can speak for you, the more we can relate what’s happened to you and why these laws are so harmful.”

Gillibrand said it is the stories heard over the years that has propelled the efforts to bring change. Currently the bill has more than 20 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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