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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says cannabis prohibition is a 'racist and colonial policy' and condemns Olympics ban of Sha'Carri Richardson

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday, August 24, 2020. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/Pool
  • Sha'Carri Richardson, 21, tested positive for a chemical found in cannabis.

  • She received a 30-day suspension and will no longer compete in the 100-meter race in Tokyo.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted the decision to bar the athlete from the Olympic games.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The decision to ban US sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson from competing in the 100-meter dash over her use of marijuana is "an instrument of racist and colonial policy," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argued Friday.

Richardson, 21, was handed a 30-day suspension from the US Olympic team after testing positive for THC, the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis. The suspension comes after she won the June 19 Olympic trials with a time of 10.86 seconds, a performance that has been disqualified.

Richard's suspension was announced Friday by the US Anti-Doping Agency. But Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, blamed the International Olympic Committee for the decision.

Although cannabis is generally not considered a performance-enhancing drug, the World Anti-Doping Agency, an arm of the IOC, deems it a "substance of abuse."

"The criminalization and banning of cannabis is an instrument of racist and colonial policy," Ocasio-Cortez said in a post on Twitter. "The IOC should reconsider its suspension of Ms. Richardson and any athletes penalized for cannabis use."

The lawmaker's call was echoed by drug policy reformers.

"In 2021, at a time when marijuana use is legally accepted in a growing number of US states and around the world, it makes exactly zero sense for regulators to continue to take punitive actions against athletes like Sha'Carri Richardson or anyone else who chooses to consume cannabis in their off-hours," Erik Altieri, executive director of the advocacy group NORML, said in a statement.

The move to ban Richardson is the latest in a string of decisions by those running the Olympic games that have been decried as prejudiced.

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