Rep. Ilhan Omar rallied in support for adult-use cannabis in Minnesota earlier this month, after backing the issue consistently during her tenure in office. Minnesota recently became the 23rd state to allow adult-use cannabis after Gov. Tim Walz signed a 300-page bill allowing cannabis for adults 21 and over.
On August 1, the Congresswoman celebrated the first day of adult-use cannabis sales in Minnesota with song and dance at Legalize It, an event held at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, sharing the event on Instagram.
“This step towards legalizing adult-use cannabis is long overdue, and it holds the promise of restorative justice for those who have borne the brunt of the unjust war on drugs,” Omar tells Forbes in an emailed statement. “Legalization represents a seismic shift away from the failed policies that have perpetuated this harm for decades.”
She continues, “Legalizing adult use of cannabis is more than just allowing recreational use, it’s about addressing the deep-rooted inequalities that have disproportionately affected communities of color. I couldn’t be prouder of my state for taking action to legalize and regulate cannabis use and expunge low-level criminal records.”
Omar—the first naturalized citizen of African birth to be elected to U.S. Congress—is aware of the inequalities that are manifested in the way cannabis laws are enforced, especially Minnesota.
The old system is racked with imbalances in justice for people of color. Even with similar rates of usage, Black people were several times more likely to be arrested on cannabis-related charges than their white counterparts, according to crime reporting data spanning from 2000 to 2019. In Minnesota, despite decriminalizing cannabis in 1976, the racial disparity of cannabis-related arrests is acute: Black people were 5.4 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people in the state. It’s time for a change.
The experiment now is to see if legalization helps to fix problems with the way cannabis laws are being enforced. Legal pot sales are also poised to become an economic boon for the state. The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimated that adult-use sales could generate around $111 million in annual tax revenue for the state and around $17 million for local governments by FY 2027. And that could reach $1.5 billion total by the end of the decade.
Last November, Omar won a third term representing Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. She supported federal reform to decriminalize cannabis such as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. She again signaled her support for cannabis pardons on Oct. 6, 2022, after President Joe Biden announced a pardon of federal cannabis possession offenses. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. adults agree and support adult-use or medical cannabis, Pew Research found last November.
She’s one of the most visible members in Congress. The Congresswoman’s lesser-known talent, playing the Roland System-1 analog modeling synth, was on display at Legalize It, setting the stage for a change the state so desperately needs.
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