Congresswoman Barbara Lee Praises House Judiciary Vote to Pass MORE Act, Decriminalize Marijuana at Federal Level
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, by a vote of 24-10. The MORE Act is one of the most comprehensive marijuana reforms bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. The MORE Act aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, reassessing marijuana convictions, and investing in local communities. U.S. Senator Kamala Harris introduced the companion bill in the Senate.
Yesterday, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and other Members of Congress held a press conference to highlight the legislation. Watch here.
“This is an incredible step forward in righting the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs. The federal government has lagged behind as states continue to modernize how we regulate and decriminalize cannabis. As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Cannabis Caucus, I’ll keep pushing to ensure Congress makes our cannabis policies are fair, equitable, and inclusive,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “I applaud Chairman Nadler for his leadership, and look forward to seeing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act get a vote on the House floor.”
“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake,” said Chairman Nadler. “While states have led the way in reform, our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. With the passage of the MORE Act today, the Judiciary Committee has taken long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs and to finally decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.”
“As more states legalize marijuana, millions of Americans with marijuana-related convictions continue to face overwhelming barriers to jobs, education, and housing,” said Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). “That is why we must act to remove the burden of marijuana convictions and make sure these individuals have the support needed to move forward. It is also critical that everyone — especially people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. This is a matter of racial and economic justice. I am grateful for Chairman Nadler’s partnership on this issue and for his leadership in moving this legislation forward. I look forward to the House of Representatives passing our legislation soon.”
“This will be one of the most historic events in our movement,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “The MORE Act is the most comprehensive cannabis legislation to date. I am proud to have worked with Chairman Nadler to develop this bill and applaud his leadership to bring it in front of the committee. This is a major step forward. We are making outstanding progress in our blueprint to end the federal prohibition of cannabis and address the injustice brought on by the war on drugs.”
“With today’s mark-up of the MORE Act, the United States is coming one step closer to ending the devastating harms of marijuana prohibition, which have fallen so heavily on Black and Brown people,” said Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This legislation won’t make up for the full scale of harm that prohibition has caused to its victims. It’s not going to return anyone their lost dreams, time lost at the mercy of the criminal justice system; or the years spent away from their families. But this legislation is the closest we’ve come yet to not only ending those harms at the federal level, but also beginning to repair them. Now it’s up to Congress to do the right thing and swiftly pass the bill to ensure justice is not delayed a moment longer.”
“We’re thrilled that House Judiciary made history today by voting the MORE Act out of Committee,” said Ed Chung, Vice President for Criminal Justice Reform at American Progress. “This represents a significant victory for marijuana reform and for communities of color that have borne the brunt of this country’s punitive drug enforcement policies. The House must build on today’s momentum and swiftly move the MORE Act to the floor for a vote from the full body. Congress has an extraordinary opportunity to ensure equity leads today’s marijuana reform policy.”
“The House Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act is a significant step towards ending the failed war on drugs and correcting some of the harms that it has caused,” said Charlotte Resing, Policy Analyst, ACLU. “The bill not only deschedules marijuana at the federal level, but it also provides a roadmap for states to legalize in a just and equitable manner. The MORE Act also provides resentencing and expungement for those with marijuana convictions and mandates the inclusion of those most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana in the newly legal marijuana industry. The ACLU is pleased to support the MORE Act and its efforts to counter the over-criminalization, over policing, and mass incarceration stemming from the war on drugs.”
“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most. In 2018 alone, over 663,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana related crimes, a three-year high. Now that Chairman Nadler has moved the MORE Act through committee, it is time for the full House to vote and have every member of Congress show their constituents which side of history they stand on.”
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:
- Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
- Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
- Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
- The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
- The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
- The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
- Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
- Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
- Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
- Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
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