Senator introduces S. 420, a bill to legalize marijuana

Dave Warden a bud tender at Private Organic Therapy, a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary displays various types of marijuana available to patients

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) introduced a proposal Friday to federally legalize marijuana and permit states to establish their own regulatory schemas for sellers of the drug. "Too many lives have been wasted, and too many economic opportunities have been missed", Wyden said. "It's time for Congress to respect the will of the voters in OR and nationwide, who are demanding common-sense drug policies". "Annually, 650,000 Americans are arrested for nothing more than the possession of small amounts of marijuana and now is the time for Congress to once and for all end put an end to the national embarrassment that is cannabis prohibition".

According to the package's summary, the three bills aim to "pave the way for responsible federal regulation of the legal marijuana industry, and provide certainty for state-legal marijuana businesses which operate in almost every state in the U.S".

Wyden wants the country to follow the example of OR, whose state government decriminalized marijuana in 1973.

A proposal similar to Wyden's previously languished in the Senate and House.

However, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat carrying the current bill in the House, said voters have "elected the most pro-cannabis Congress in American history".

Kris Connor  Getty Images
Kris Connor Getty Images

The proposal, identical to a bill in the House, aims to ease the longstanding conflict between states where cannabis is legal in some form and the USA government, which categorizes marijuana as a unsafe illegal drug, similar to LSD or heroin.

"Oregon has been and continues to be a leader in commonsense marijuana policies, and the federal government must catch up", said Blumenauer.

Kevin Sabet, the president of an anti-legalization group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, countered by claiming the bill's passage would be "allow for and encourage the establishment of an industry that regularly produces and markets kid-friendly, high potency pot products". "Instead, legalization is connected to increased drugged driving fatalities, skyrocketing emergency room visits, the marketing of pot to pregnant women, continued arrest disparities and increased heavy and risky use".

Marijuana legalization is a popular proposal-two thirds of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support it.

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