Marijuana legalization advocates applauded Friday as House Democrats reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act with the aim of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level and correcting the injustices of the United States’ failed “war on drugs.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is the lead sponsor of the legislation, also known as the MORE Act, and led the House in passing the bill last year in a bipartisan vote of 228 to 164.
Along with co-sponsors Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Nadler announced his intention to ensure the bill passes in both chambers of Congress now that Democrats control the House and the Senate, and following numerous strides toward marijuana legalization at the state level.
“With the majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization for adult use, and the way in which communities of color have been devastated by prohibition finally being widely acknowledged, prioritizing marijuana reform that begins to undo this harm and give back to those communities should be a no-brainer.”
—Queen Adesuyi, Drug Policy Alliance
“Since I introduced the MORE Act last Congress, numerous states across the nation, including my home state of New York, have moved to legalize marijuana. Our federal laws must keep up with this pace,” said Nadler. “I’m proud to reintroduce the MORE Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.”
In addition to removing marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and eliminating the discrepancy between state and federal marijuana laws, the MORE Act would:
- Facilitate the expungement of low-level, federal marijuana conviction and incentivize state and local governments to take similar actions;
- Remove the threat of deportation for immigrants accused of minor marijuana infractions; and
- Authorize the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to fund grant programs aimed at reinvesting in the communities harmed by the war on drugs.
The grant programs would provide job training, re-entry programs, legal aid, and other services to people adversely impacted by the nation’s discriminatory drug laws; provide loans for small business owners in the marijuana industry who are socially and economically disadvantaged; and fund programs to ensure people affected by the war on drugs have access to marijuana licensing and employment in the industry.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which worked to secure a vote on the MORE Act last year in Congress, applauded the lawmakers for removing language from the final version of last year’s legislation which excluded directly impacted people from participating in the marijuana industry.
“With the majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization for adult use, and the way in which communities of color have been devastated by prohibition finally being widely acknowledged, prioritizing marijuana reform that begins to undo this harm and give back to those communities should be a no-brainer,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for DPA’s Office of National Affairs. “We are grateful that not only was this bill reintroduced so early in the session, but that the exclusionary language that ended up getting added in through the political process last year was removed. This bill is meant to comprehensively address the widespread harms of prohibition, and it is impossible to do that if we are still leaving those that have already paid the steepest price out.”
The Marijuana Policy Project called the bill “historic in scope.”
Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said the MORE Act will put the U.S. on the path “toward true justice… by providing true equity and opportunity for those looking to access this booming industry.”
“During the last year, people across the country have seen how injustice impacts communities of color—from police brutality to the Covid-19 pandemic. The war on drugs is no exception. We must deliver justice to those most impacted by America’s racist and discriminatory cannabis laws,” said Lee. “This bill will not only put an end to harmful federal cannabis policies that have ruined countless lives, it will seek to reverse the damage.”
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