December 04, 2020

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Applauds the Historic Passage of Comprehensive Marijuana Reform Legislation

Washington, D.C. - Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, today released a statement following the historic passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies, which have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities.

The MORE Act, the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced in Congress, would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, reassess marijuana convictions, and invest in local communities. The historic vote passed out of the House 228 to 164, and marks the first time a full chamber of Congress has approved a reform to our federal cannabis policy. Congresswoman Lee’s Marijuana Justice Act, the first racial justice cannabis reform bill introduced in Congress, was included in this comprehensive legislation.

"This is a monumental step toward ending the failed and racist War on Drugs,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “For decades, discriminatory cannabis policies have perpetuated yet another form of systemic racism in America. This historic vote is the result of tireless work from activists, advocates, and the will of the people. It’s crucial that we not only end the failed war on drugs, but provide access to this booming industry to communities most devastated.

 “I’m pleased that my bill, the Marijuana Justice Act, which was the first racial justice cannabis reform bill introduced in the House, was included in this sweeping legislation. I applaud Chairman Nadler for his leadership on the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressman Blumenauer for his shared commitment to reforming our discriminatory cannabis policies. I will continue fighting to ensure the Senate solidifies our work to make our cannabis policies more equitable, inclusive, and just for all." 

 "I have worked on this issue for 47 years,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “We’re here because we have failed three generations of Black and Brown young people, whose lives can be ruined, or lost, by selective enforcement of these laws. This legislation will end that disaster. It's time for Congress to step up and do its part. We need to catch up with the rest of the American people.”

“Our country’s marijuana laws have disproportionately and unjustly targeted people of color and low-income individuals and do not make our communities any safer,” said Senator Cory Booker, Senate author of the Marijuana Justice Act. “After years of work in Congress, our efforts to pair marijuana legalization with expungement and reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs have finally led us to today’s historic passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in the House of Representatives. I applaud Congresswoman Lee, Chairman Nadler, Congressman Blumenauer, and my other colleagues in the House for taking real, meaningful action and bringing us one step closer to true equality and justice for all, and I look forward to continuing this fight in the Senate next Congress.”

Over 545,000 people in the U.S. were arrested for marijuana-related crimes in 2019 alone and over 90% of those arrested were charged with mere possession.  Despite equal rates of use across populations, people of color are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts. Due to discriminatory sentencing practices, Black men receive drug sentences that are 13.1 percent longer than sentences imposed for white men, while Latinos are nearly 6.5 times more likely to receive a federal sentence for cannabis possession than non-Hispanic whites.

Cannabis reform is also overwhelmingly popular in states across the country.  This election cycle, voters in five politically diverse states – including Mississippi and South Dakota – overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to liberalize their cannabis policies, making it clear that the American people are demanding a change to these outdated laws. Cannabis will soon be legal in 15 states for adult use and in 36 states for medical use, but it remains criminalized at the federal level, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and wasting billions of dollars on the enforcement of an outdated and harmful system. 

To read the full text of the bill, click here

See Rep. Lee's full remarks in support of the MORE Act below: