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Michael Bennet, 2020 candidates back bill legalizing marijuana nationwide

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet signed onto legislation Thursday that would end a federal prohibition on marijuana, effectively legalizing the drug nationwide.

The bill, championed by New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, was first introduced in 2017 and failed to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, was not a co-sponsor of that bill but has joined the effort this year.

“This long-overdue change will help bring our marijuana laws into the 21st century,” Bennet said in a statement Thursday. “It’s past time we bring fairness and relief to communities that our criminal justice system has too often left behind.”

The Booker bill is popular with senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are co-sponsors. Bennet also is considering a run for president, making his first trip to Iowa as a possible candidate last weekend.

The legislation is billed by supporters as the broadest marijuana legislation to date. In addition to legalizing marijuana, it would immediately expunge the convictions of anyone who has served time in federal prison for marijuana use or possession. It would also create a fund for reinvesting in low-income areas and communities of color with job training programs and re-entry services.

The bill faces a steep road to passage in the Senate Judiciary Committee and full Senate, both of which are controlled by Republicans.