The growing acceptance of legalizing marijuana

ABC News’ Alex Presha looks at the fight to legalize marijuana nationwide and how advocates hope decriminalizing marijuana could lead to economic and racial justice.
8:15 | 05/11/21

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Transcript for The growing acceptance of legalizing marijuana
And now growing acceptance of legalize marijuana across the country nearly half of Americans now have access to legally purchase marijuana in their home states. And as of how Democrats are calling for it to be legalized nationwide by next year some states and communities are hoping that pot once considered a gateway drug. Could now become a gateway for economic and racial justice here's ABC's Alex for Shea. This is Linda greens and bread and butter anacostia organics. It's an idea born over dinner. With some close girlfriends when I asked someone mentioned that DC had legalized can't of this. And we are looked at each other because we all in the same age group from products of the sixties is that we should go in that business. Well Linda a longtime community organizer in the nation's capital saw an opportunity to open a marijuana dispensary in one of the cities chronically poverty stricken areas. This is not us down our industry. Is spending this conceit. This is not a starry industry is say industry of healing. Linda it's one of more than 320000. Americans who work in the Canada's industry. Recreational use of pot is currently legal in seventeen states and DC sales and tweets when he reached more than seventeen and a half billion dollars. An incredible boom for an industry during a pandemic in all of this despite the federal prohibition. The ballot back to US house recently passed one of a handful of bills currently working its way through congress that would strengthen the industry the city to act would make it easier for candidates companies who do business in states where seals are legal. It's time for change. I believe the time has com to end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer speaking on fort when he said the time is right for action on legalization. Not only to end the federal prohibition on marijuana but to ensure restorative justice. Protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations. But is the Biden White House ready for that the federal level he supports decriminalizing marijuana use and automatically expending any prior criminal. Records he also supports legalizing medicinal marijuana so that's a sleepy on the issue. But that's not full legalization and data shows that's what most Americans want. A recent pew research sooner poll shows 91%. Of those surveyed say marijuana should be legal. And of those respondents three and five C candidates should be legal for both medicinal and recreational use. Less than 10% believe pot should remain criminalized across the board. Looking at the current congress and the current administration. Do you feel as though their it's. There is a clock there is a window in order to get this story. I think there is a window of opportunity right now that and maybe won't exist a year Andrew Friedman was Colorado's so called candidates are. I was the governor's director of marijuana court nations. Created the framework for the first legal pot market in the country. And has seen the industry grow from the start. Since 2014 marijuana has made over ten billion dollars in sales for the state. That's generated more than 400 million dollars in tax revenue used to fund state school related projects. It seems as though get into a point where. It's it's about so it's not breaking through the taboo but what do you think we stand in in terms of of of of that mindset. He is so bad you know if you go to Colorado right now and you have a conversation about candidates it's the most normal thing in the world to write it stands right alongside alcoholic stands right alongside. The Denver Broncos. As just a thing to have a conversation about. Injured who now runs the coalition for Canada's policy education in regulation but hinting that includes big tobacco big beer security companies and others who have a stake in the candidates industry. What's this strategy going. Forward so our strategy is really to his stop focusing on if legalization should go forward. Not recognizing that legalization has gone forward it's a reality for almost half of America it's here it's here. And we really need to start talking about how rather than if legalization is a good idea so. In the most recent state to legalize marijuana Virginia this is tobacco country part of the Bible Belt. The commonwealth now the first to legalize recreational use in the south it happened just last month when governor north from signed the law this is the latest step. We are taking toward building and a more equitable. And just Virginia. And while he won't be able to sell drugs legally for three years the governor push for the legislature to speed up the timetable for legalization of simple possession to limit drug arrests and according to the ACLU black Americans or nearly four times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession despite similar usage treats. Governor Norton says that he's going to and that the disparate treatment of some of people of color. I rescinded did this happening in Virginia is his personal take oh with personal. I was the 19. Born and raised in Virginia and I eight you know. Didn't think that would happen for me. She need a penny was charged with possession a decade ago. And it was that simple traffic stop it cost her nearly 3500. Dollars to expunge her record. So this is it's a difficult. Process for someone whom the arm pretty reasonably. You know re fourth but for someone who's not. This becomes. A game changer in the worst way. Despite her run in with the law should need a went on to rise in the top of her profession and work with fortune 500 companies as a consultant. As the president and in TBA and today using her skills and compliance and business development the one thing indicative Bruins should eat is life is now driving her way of life. It lit a fire under me could make legalization happen in a way day people who were not intercede in consuming this plant. Or being a part of this industry did they would fully understand why legalization is so important and how. Com equitable legalization can impact your life when a year again touching this plan are not. She Nita says she believes her encounter with the law is an example of the staggering racial bias in policing minorities for possession. And as Steve start to decriminalize and legalize the movement is turning towards using marijuana laws as a deep wait suggested. So why was it is so important is to start with with with. To understand that if the EU legislation was truly don't prioritize. Racial equity and the harm that's been done and we need to stop the harm as soon as possible holes. It advocates say that growing revenue stream for state is being used as a possible source for racial equity and economic opportunity. From drug laws that were historically used to in prison populations of color. To now laws that could help fund renewal a lot of the conversation now is. How do you make sure that the economic opportunities available are therefore the community's most harmed by the war on drugs when idea reparations this is a historic road in March the town of Evanston Illinois passed a resolution to support tax revenue from pot sales will be used to help its black residents who feast historic and fear housing practices. Ten million dollars total over ten years to be used on appears or put down pavements. We have a lot of hopes won them commercial market here particularly in Virginia banks. It is going to be a hard push to teach really means that equitable and we would like to really say that this is a first step forward this is a progressive step forward. Virginia's law include something called the candidates equity reinvestment fund. 30% of tax revenue raised goes towards helping communities historically over police for marijuana crimes and for Linda green there's a reinvestment of sorts as well. One added things that I did was. I open and my dispensary in the community in which I live. Linda's workers come former anacostia neighborhood she says she teaches them the ins and outs of the industry so that one day. This little green plan can be used not only to heal the sick. But also her community. Alex for Shea ABC news Washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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