Nancy Mace began using marijuana after she was raped in high school. “There was no light in my life,” Mace told Yahoo News of that time. “I dropped out of school, became a waitress at Waffle House.”

She eventually returned to school with newfound determination, becoming the first woman to graduate from the Citadel in 1999. After working in South Carolina politics, she won election to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican in 2018, becoming only the second woman to represent the state in Washington.

Now she is using her newfound national clout to help legalize the drug that helped her through the trauma of sexual assault with legislation that decriminalizes and taxes it, with a 3 percent “sin tax” (also known as an excise tax) similar to those once in place for tobacco and alcohol. In effect, the States Reform Act, as the legislation is known, would treat cannabis like alcohol instead of heroin.

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference about a cannabis reform bill she introduced on Nov. 15, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

“When you poll on this issue, when you put it on the ballot, there is overwhelming support regardless of your political affiliation,” Mace told Yahoo News in a recent interview. In fact, legalizing cannabis appears to have become the least controversial issue in a society riven by controversies, with a recent Pew poll showing 91 percent of Americans favoring legalization.

Cannabis (the word “marijuana” has fallen out of favor, in part because of its racialized connotations) is already legal for medical use in 37 states; 18 states allow recreational use too. However, the federal government still classifies the drug in the same Schedule I category as LSD and ecstasy, so that essential functions like banking are difficult to obtain for dispensaries even in states where cannabis is legal.

Mace’s proposal is one of a number of cannabis-related proposals now being considered by Congress. A roadblock to much of that legislation has been Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has his own ambitious cannabis reform bill that he favors above more modest proposals that would, for example, make use of the federal banking system easier for cannabis-related businesses.

Schumer even stripped a banking-related provision from last year’s defense bill, infuriating House members who’d introduced and supported the measure. “I don’t really quite know what the hell his problem is,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said of Schumer at the time.

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