Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York joined forces with Rep. Jamie Raskin from Maryland to call on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to reverse its one-months suspension of sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson after she tested positive for marijuana. “We urge you to reconsider the policies that led to this and other suspensions for recreational marijuana use, and to reconsider Ms. Richardson’s suspension. Please strike a blow for civil liberties and civil rights by reversing this course you are on,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter. The one-month suspension may prevent Richardson from competing in the Olympics in Tokyo next month. Although she won’t be allowed to participate in the 100m race, she may still be eligible to participate in another event.
Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin said that the “ban on marijuana is a significant and unnecessary burden on athletes’ civil liberties.” The lawmakers said it doesn’t really make sense for THC, the main active chemical in marijuana, to be listed as a “prohibited competition substance” when even the medical director of the World Anti-Doping Agency “has said there is no evidence that marijuana is performance enhancing.” Plus, marijuana is legal in Oregon, where Richardson was when she used it.
In a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said the ban “lacks any scientific basis” and is “rooted solely in the systemic racism that’s long driven anti-marijuana laws.” In a separate tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said that “the criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy.”
The lawmakers said it makes no sense to continue to place marijuana in a prohibited category and not do the same for alcohol and cigarettes. “We are also concerned that the continued prohibition of marijuana while your organizations allow recreational use of alcohol and other drugs reflects anti-drug laws and policies that have historically targeted Black and Brown communities while largely condoning drug use in white communities,” they said. “Anti-marijuana laws have a particularly ugly history of systemic racism.” The lawmakers said that “the divergent treatment of recreational alcohol and marijuana use reflects obsolete stereotypes about cannabis products.”
Ocasio-Coretz and Raskin were not the only lawmakers to speak up. Rep. Ilhan Omar also expressed her support for Richardson in a tweet.
President Joe Biden had a different take on the issue. “The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in,” Biden said when asked about the suspension Saturday. “Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue, but the rules are the rules.”