Push for Marijuana Legalization Gains Traction

Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduced legislation last month to decriminalize and deschedule cannabis. Since the legislation’s introduction, more than 100 organizations have come out in favor of the move. In a recent op-ed for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Rep. Nadler called reform of marijuana laws a “moral responsibility” and urged the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, to move on the measure.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE Act) would instruct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect demographic data on the marijuana industry, provide a process for courts to expunge marijuana convictions and resentence people with marijuana convictions, prevent individuals from being denied federal benefits on the basis of use of possession of marijuana, prohibit immigration penalties based on marijuana, and create a Cannabis Opportunity Trust Fund.

The trust fund would allow federal tax revenue from marijuana to be used toward establishing a Community Reinvestment Grant program to fund community organizations providing services to areas harmed by the war on drugs, creating a Cannabis Opportunity Program for Small Business Administration loans to support socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who own marijuana businesses, and creating the Equitable Licensing Grant Program to provide jurisdictions with funds to develop and implement equitable marijuana licensing programs targeted toward individuals adversely impacted by the war on drugs.

Over 100 organizations wrote a letter to House leadership urging the passage of the legislation. Among the supporting groups from the law enforcement community were the Law Enforcement Action Partnership and Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.

The letter explains, “The war on drugs, which includes the war on marijuana, devastated the lives of generations of African American and Latinx Americans from low-income communities. These individuals were disproportionately targeted and brought into the criminal justice system for engaging in marijuana activity that is increasingly lawful…We are encouraged by the progress around marijuana reform at the state and federal level… While this progress is promising, we insist that any marijuana reform or legalization bill considered by Congress include robust provisions addressing social justice and criminal justice reform.”

The groups praised Nadler’s legislation as the “most far-reaching” reform law introduced in Congress.

In his August NORML op-ed, Rep. Nadler argued, “Marijuana is a public health and personal freedom issue, not a criminal one. We can no longer afford the moral or financial costs of the War on Drugs.”

The legislation currently has 35 cosponsors, 34 Democrats and one Republican. Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

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