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US Senate to pass law legalizing marijuana

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NEW YORK — The U.S. is poised to pass marijuana legalization legislation this week, the latest example of rapidly changing attitudes toward drug laws that mark a near reversal from the Reagan-era war on drugs, which also reverberated through the 1990s.

The House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill decriminalizing marijuana use on a federal level this week. This is a move that is overwhelmingly popular among Americans: according to a Pew Research poll conducted in April 2021, 91 percent of U.S. adults believe marijuana should be legalized at the federal level, either medically, recreationally, or both, according to Forbes.

The marijuana legalization bill has nearly unanimous Democratic support, as well as a key ally in Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who has been aiming to introduce a similar bill this spring.

And it’s just one of several pieces of legislation that highlight the shift in Congress’s attitude – a shift brought about in part by the way previous drug laws disproportionately impacted minority communities.

“This Congress represents a sea change,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“What we have seen is that the majority of people now realize that the war on drugs failed,” Blumenauer told The Hill. “Drugs are more accessible and cheaper and more potent and dangerous. Nobody won this war, except people who were involved with the drug dealers themselves.”

The House has voted twice in the last year, most recently as part of legislation to boost U.S. competitiveness, to allow legally operating cannabis businesses to use banking services and credit cards rather than having to operate solely on cash.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Thursday, March 24, to expand scientific and medical research on marijuana and its constituents, including cannabidiol.

The flurry of activity in Congress isn’t just about marijuana legalization.

Last fall, the House passed a bipartisan bill by a vote of 361-66 to end the federal disparity in prison sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses. Republicans cast all of the no votes, but a majority of Republicans in the House joined all Democrats in support.

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