2021 Sees Republican Lawmakers Take Lead On Marijuana Legalization In More U.S. States

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Marijuana legalization has long been seen as a blue state issue, with Democratic lawmakers far more favorable toward the policy change than Republicans even as GOP voters have warmed to cannabis reform in recent years. But in legislatures across the country this year, there are signs that’s finally starting to change. In at least 10 states, Republican lawmakers have taken lead roles in crafting and sponsoring legislation to legalize cannabis in 2021 legislative sessions. In some, such as North Dakota, GOP-led bills are on pace to potentially become law, while in other states like New Mexico, Republicans have submitted legalization proposals alongside their Democratic colleagues, coming to the table to craft bipartisan compromises. In yet other states, including New Hampshire and Missouri, Republicans have introduced marijuana legislation but have so far struggled to gain momentum for their bills. Even there, the bills’ conservative lawmakers have staked an ideological claim to legalization, arguing the change would better respect individual liberties and end wasteful spending on a failed government drug war. “This initiative will increase personal freedom, allow law enforcement to focus on violent crime instead of nonviolent marijuana users, and provide revenue for infrastructure, broadband, and drug treatment,” Rep. Shamed Dogan, a Missouri Republican, said after prefiling a legalization bill for this session. It’s a rare example in today’s divided age of lawmakers finding common policy ground across party lines. While some of the Republicans teaming up with Democrats to legalize cannabis are moderates, others remain sharply partisan on other issues. Florida Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, for example, a sponsor of bipartisan legislation to legalize cannabis for adults in that state and allow past convictions to be expunged, has previously tweeted QAnon conspiracy theories and criticized Black Lives Matter protestors as “disgusting, lawless thugs.” The cross-country wave of Republican lawmakers embracing…

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