California Senator Kamala Harris plans to introduce a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
The bill, which was introduced on Tuesday, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, will also support minority-owned businesses within the marijuana industry.
Harris, who has collaborated with House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler for the bill, which the pair called one of the “most comprehensive reform bills ever introduced,” will also propose a five percent federal tax on marijuana sales. The tax will go towards the Opportunity Trust Fund to fund grant programs to assist those who have been harshly penalized for marijuana possession in the past.
CBS News reports the bill would also prevent immigrants from being "subject to deportation or citizenship denial based solely on a marijuana infraction," and "prohibit the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) on the basis of possession or use of marijuana."
“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Harris said in a statement. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives.”
According to an American Civil Liberties Union report, arrest records between 2001 and 2010 showed Black people are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for the same drug offenses.
The introduction of the bill is the latest development in Harris’s changing position on marijuana legalization, but like many other Democratic bills, it faces a challenging battle for approval in the Republican controlled Senate.
She once opposed marijuana legalization in 2010 as San Francisco's district attorney. As a candidate for California attorney general, the 2020 presidential hopeful publicly opposed Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana use in the state.
Five years later, Harris’ stance changed while running for the U.S. Senate, telling the San Francisco Chronicle she had "no moral objection" to legalizing recreational marijuana.
Earlier this month, lawmakers held a hearing on removing weed from the controlled substances list. So far, ten states have legalized recreational use of the substance.
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