Tag: Earl Blumenauer

Bipartisan Congressional Pushback Against White House Firing Staffers for Cannabis

For good reason, many (all?) drug policy reformers were wary of Joe Biden as a presidential candidate as he had a long history of out-of-touch pro-Drug War policy positions throughout his political career, namely the disastrous 1994 Crime Bill that helped usher in an era of mass incarceration. However, Biden seemed to evolve on the campaign trail and, while not nearly good enough, his stance on cannabis was a step in the right direction from previous presidents. With 2/3 of the entire electorate supporting legalization and a supermajority of more than 80% of his own party on board, yes, there’s no reason that President Biden shouldn’t be in favor of legislation to repeal cannabis prohibition, but Reefer Madness can be difficult for some to fully shake. Then-candidate Joe Biden tweeted, “There is a lot of talk out there on where I stand when it comes to our marijuana laws,” including this graphic laying out his “evolved” positions:

Again, there’s really no excuse to oppose ending federal cannabis prohibition, but Biden’s positions do mark an improvement from previous presidents. As advocates, we must always strive towards our ultimate goal, but we can still make note of the positive baby steps along the way. While the Biden White House’s stance on cannabis for government employees is actually an improvement from previous administrations, a bipartisan group of legislators are rightfully demanding that he do better, highlighted by Oregon’s own Earl Blumenauer penning a letter to President Biden signed by 30 members of Congress that stated:

“While we work to deschedule cannabis legislatively, your administration should act within its power to stop legitimizing unfair cannabis laws. You have previously expressed your commitment to decriminalizing cannabis in acknowledgement that a cannabis conviction or even the stigma of cannabis use can ruin lives and prevent people from voting, gaining employment, and contributing to society. You can meet this moment and help end our failed punitive policy of cannabis prohibition.”

The lawmakers added, “The existing policies have been applied in inconsistent and unfair ways. Those in the upper ranks of your administration won’t face consequences for their cannabis use, and nor should they, but the same standard should be applied across the administration. Repercussions for cannabis use have always been unequal and those with the most power have always faced the fewest consequences. We ask that you don’t allow that pattern to continue within your administration.”

Republican David Joyce from Ohio, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, sent his own letter to President Biden, stating:

I respectfully request that your administration discontinue punishment of staff for being honest about their prior cannabis use and reinstate otherwise qualified individuals to their posts. Moving forward, I encourage your administration to focus its efforts within cannabis on establishing an effective federal regulatory framework which recognizes that continued cannabis prohibition is neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate. I stand ready and willing to work with you in this regard.

While it often seems like the cannabis community takes a step back each time we take a couple of steps forward, we are definitely making progress and even setbacks provide opportunities to build upon our success. Whether it’s President Biden’s out-of-touch staffer cannabis policy or the ridiculous Reefer Madness nonsense spouted by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, we are presented with opportunities to point out defects with current law and make important steps forward towards true freedom and equality.

People’s Justice Guarantee Includes Legalizing Cannabis and Expungement

After decades upon decades of doubling down on the insanity of the Drug War, it is so great to see our nation making progress at the local, state, and federal levels. Of course, the cannabis community really led the way with medical and adult use legislation putting together a rather impressive winning record at the ballot box since 1996, followed by legislative success in states that don’t have the initiative process. With a few localities like Denver and Washington, D.C., decriminalizing some plant psychedelic drugs and Oregon taking a real sledgehammer to the War on Drugs by decriminalizing all personal possession with Measure 110 last year, we are even seeing some positive movement at the federal level. Fresh off the U.S. House passing the historic MORE Act to end federal cannabis prohibition last year, the newly introduced People’s Justice Guarantee, includes legalizing cannabis and expunging old drug convictions, as Marijuana Moment reported:

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) is leading the measure, which calls for a series of policy changes that are meant to reduce mass incarceration and broadly reform the country’s criminal justice system. She introduced an initial version of resolution last Congress as well with the same drug-related language, but it did not advance.

Drug policy isn’t at the center of the broad proposal, which currently 17 initial cosponsors, but it is one component of a comprehensive call to action from the coalition of Democratic lawmakers. Pressley titled the resolution the “People’s Justice Guarantee,” and it aims to establish a “framework for a fair, equitable and just legal system.”

In order to reduce the incarcerated population, Congress should pursue “decriminalizing addiction, homelessness, poverty, HIV status, and disabilities, including mental health diagnosis, by legalizing marijuana and overdose prevention sites, declining to criminally prosecute low-level offenses such as loitering and theft of necessity goods, and expunging the records of individuals for all drug-related offenses,” the resolution states.

As Marijuana Moment notes, drug policy reform isn’t the sole mission of the People’s Justice Guarantee, but that’s actually a good thing in my opinion. Cannabis legalization and other progressive drug law fixes should be a part of the foundation towards justice, equality, and equity, putting ending the War on Drugs into a proper context. Too often, the debate around the Drug War focuses on drugs when the focus should be on the people. What do you want for your loved ones that use drugs? Do you want arrest, prison sentences, and a lack of educational and employment opportunities or do you want to provide treatment if they need it and preserve their chance of achieving the American Dream? A sincere thanks to Ayanna Pressley, Oregon’s own Earl Blumenauer, and everyone working to move this important legislation.

ANOTHER Armed Robbery in Portland: Cannabis Businesses Need Banking Services Now

The Willamette Week recently reported on the crime spree facing Portland-area cannabis dispensaries as more than 100 retail stores have been burglarized over the last year. These violent attacks have left workers traumatized and one 44 year-old father has already senselessly lost his life. Cannabis legalization is here to stay and our elected officials are hurting too many people by avoiding their responsibility to a supermajority of voters that want cannabis prohibition to end. Legalizing normal banking services is a small step towards legalization that will have a huge impact for craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf and all of their vendors while it will liberally save lives. At this point, even if you oppose legalization, you should still want dispensaries to have normal banking services as forcing them to be cash-only endangers entire communities.

Unfortunately, there was another armed robbery yesterday evening in Portland, according to a press release from the Portland Police Bureau (the address has been edited after PPB issued a correction following its initial release):

On March 8, 2021, at about 8:25 p.m., Portland Police responded to a hit and run at Southeast Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard and Southeast Salmon Street. At least two people were seen running from one of the involved cars, leaving it behind blocking the street.

At about 8:27 p.m., a call came in regarding an armed robbery that just occurred at a marijuana store in the 3800 block of Southeast Main Street, down the street from the hit and run. It was apparent the two calls were related.

Officers arrived to both scenes, contacted victims and witnesses, preserved evidence and looked for the suspects. Officers recovered two handguns and other evidence from the car the suspects left behind, but did not find the suspects.

This is an ongoing investigation. If anyone has information about this case, please reference the case 21-62894 and e-mail crimetips@portlandoregon.gov .

Anonymous tips can be sent through Crime Stoppers. Crime Stoppers of Oregon offers cash rewards of up to $2,500 cash for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in any unsolved felony crime and tipsters can remain anonymous.

With so many friends working in the cannabis industry, I’m feeling extremely anxious about these robberies, I can only imagine what budtenders and other dispensary employees are feeling. It’s a scary world out there already, without having to wonder if armed burglars are going to target your business solely because federal law hasn’t caught up with reality yet. The Drug War has cost us too much already and even when we take steps to rollback prohibition, its deadly consequences still reverberate throughout the cannabis community. There are obviously a lot of serious issues facing Congress, but the SAFE Banking Act needs to be a priority. The wave of armed robberies will start spreading to other cities and states and more lives will be unnecessarily lost. There’s not time to waste. The cannabis banking bill has wide bipartisan support and Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have been great champions of the common-sense proposal. In fact, all of Oregon’s congressional delegation voted to pass the measure, so spread the word for friends to contact their representatives and urge them to pass the SAFE Banking Act. Lives literally depend upon it.

Cannabis Prohibition Is Dangerous: Portland Robberies Show the Need for Banking Access

It feels good to be legalizing cannabis state by state as prohibition has done so much harm over the decades, but federal prohibition can’t end soon enough. Rooted in racism, the United State’s enforcement of the Marihuana Tax Act and draconian state laws have led to wasted resources, ruined lives, and an infringement of constitutional civil liberties.

Even in states where cannabis is legal, prohibition continues harm innocent, nonviolent people. Racist Harry Anslinger’s war against the cannabis community, which led to the greater Drug War, initially targeted nonconformists and minorities, including Mexican immigrants and Black jazz musicians (such as the great Billie Holiday). Anslinger, needing to keep his federal drug enforcement job following the end of alcohol prohibition, used Reefer Madness propaganda to perpetuate a wave of terror across the United States. Allied with newspaper oligarch William Randolph Hearst, a proponent of misinformation-spewing yellow journalism to achieve political goals, Anslinger published what became known as his “Gore Files” filled with outright lies meant to inflame the masses about the evils of marijuana.

Of the 200 gory crime stories blamed on cannabis, like Victor Licata slaughtering his family, 198 were found to be misattributed while the other two have no records, thus likely fabrications altogether. Unfortunately, Anslinger’s war on the cannabis community has caused countless real-world horror stories, even up to the death of a Portland father, murdered in cold blood during an armed robbery spree targeting dispensaries in beautiful Portland, Oregon. While Reefer Madness prohibitionists will try to pin the robberies on cannabis itself, reasonable people know that it is federal prohibition forcing retailers to be cash-only businesses that’s to blame, not a plant that even Anslinger himself understood didn’t make people violent (he just needed job security and to promote his racism).

The Willamette Week’s Tess Riski recently reported on the violent crime spree targeting Portland’s cannabis retailers. Congressman Earl Blumenauer stressed the importance of providing state-regulated cannabis businesses access to banking services:

He believes that federal legalization of cannabis—or, more specifically, the passage of a bill called the Secure and Fair Enforcement, or SAFE, Banking Act—would significantly reduce the number of weed robberies and burglaries, because there would be little to no cash on the stores’ premises.

If passed, the SAFE Banking Act would provide a “safe harbor” that allows banks to offer financial services like loans, credit card processing, and access to capital to the cannabis industry without criminal risk.

“If they were able to have normal financial transactions, they wouldn’t have this danger of repeated robbery,” Blumenauer says. “It would take away this tempting target for thugs who know these are successful businesses [that] have lots of cash.”

Riski’s reporting discovered that more than 100 Portland-area dispensaries have been robbed within the last year. These robberies have led to traumatized employees staring down the barrel of guns, being zip tied, and feeling like the Portland Police Bureau isn’t doing enough to protect them and investigate these crimes. Most tragic, Michael Arthur, a forty four year-old father, was murdered while doing his budtending job at Cured Green. While no law can bring back Mr. Arthur to his friends and family or undo the trauma victims of these robberies have faced, we need to do our part in eliminating future harms of cannabis prohibition. While we are anxious to end Harry Anslinger’s deadly legacy once and for all, we need to take the next common sense step in passing the SAFE Banking Act. Lives literally depend upon it.

Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer Helps Lead Effort to Expunge Federal Cannabis Convictions

President Joe Biden’s legislative history as a Drug War supporter caused consternation for those supporting cannabis legalization and other drug policy reforms, but he softened his stance as a candidate, pledging to support decriminalization and the expungement of cannabis offenses from folks’ criminal records. While stopping short of ending federal prohibition, Biden’s cannabis policies would be a step in the right direction. Stepping up like he always does when it comes to cannabis policy reform, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, along with Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-chair, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, is leading an effort to urge President Biden to expunge harmful cannabis convictions from people’s records.

From the press release of Representatives Blumenauer and Lee, announcing how they led 35 lawmakers in urging President Joe Biden to use executive clemency to pardon individuals convicted of federal cannabis crimes:

“Until the day that Congress sends you a marijuana reform bill to sign, you have a unique ability to lead on criminal justice reform and provide immediate relief to thousands of Americans,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to the president. “We urge you to grant executive clemency for all non-violent cannabis offenders.”

The lawmakers stressed that discriminatory cannabis policies have perpetuated systemic racism in America for decades, citing a 2020 report issued by the ACLU that found that Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite comparable usage rates.

“During your previous tenure at the White House, President Obama understood that decades of harsh and discriminatory federal drug laws unfairly trapped minority individuals and communities in cycles of despair. That is why he used the tools of justice to grant clemency for 1,927 individuals convicted of federal crimes,” the lawmakers continued. “Your Administration has the power to expand on end this legacy and issue a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders in the U.S and trigger resentencing for all those who remain federally incarcerated on non-violent, cannabis-only offenses for activity now legal under state laws.”

In their letter to President Biden Thursday, the lawmakers also noted that their request is not a partisan issue. Every president since George H.W. Bush has exercised their pardoning power for cannabis offenses.

This push from lawmakers comes after Americans in five more states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies during the November elections and the U.S. House of Representatives took the historic step of passing the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in December.

“President Biden’s leadership on issuing pardons to nonviolent federal marijuana offenders would demonstrate a down payment on his campaign promise to prioritize criminal justice reform and similarly inspire similar justice-oriented actions in a non-partisan fashion around the country,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Shortly after President Biden’s election, the House of Representatives voted to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. Now in a new legislative session, President Biden should follow their lead and move to immediately provide relief to those who continue to suffer from a criminal record for a nonviolent federal marijuana offense. We are tremendously grateful for the leadership of the Cannabis Caucus, particularly Representatives Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, as they tirelessly lead this ongoing but hopefully soon to be finished fight for marijuana justice nationwide.” 

In addition to Blumenauer and Lee, the letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Reps. Nydia Velázquez, Adriano Espaillat, Bonnie Watson Coleman, James McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, Jesús “Chuy” García, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rashida Tlaib, Danny K. Davis, Alan Lowenthal, Alcee Hastings, David Trone, Mark Pocan, Carolyn Maloney, Peter Welch, Dwight Evans, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Jared Huffman, Pramila Jayapal, Ed Perlmutter, Mondaire Jones, Zoe Lofgren, Ro Khanna, J. Luis Correa, Brenda Lawrence, Charlie Crist, Dean Phillips, Jamaal Bowman, Steven Horsford, Henry “Hank” Johnson, Jake Auchincloss, Raúl Grijalva, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Whether President Biden fulfills his campaign promises on cannabis policy remain to be seen, but it’s great to know that there are public servants like Representatives Blumenauer and Lee that are working to hold him accountable, regardless of partisanship or politics. Ending cannabis prohibition has become a mainstream issue with 2/3 support of all Americans. It’s time that the federal government do the right thing and erase these harmful convictions that have denied too many people employment, housing, and educational opportunities.  

The Cannabis Community Is on Fire: United States House Passes Cannabis Research Legislation

The hits keep coming for the cannabis community as our hot streak continues in the political realm. Fresh off the heels of the passage of the historic MORE Act to end federal prohibition, the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a research bill today on a voice vote.  House Resolution 3797: The Marijuana Research Act, facilitates research by establishing a process so that allows scientists to access cannabis flower and other products manufactured in accordance with state-regulated programs.

As Marijuana Moment reported, the research bill had the backing of cannabis law reform leader Earl Blumenauer and prohibitionist Andy Harris:

“The cannabis laws in this country are broken, especially those that deal with research,” Blumenauer said on the House floor prior to the vote. “It’s a narrow bill that fixes one of many broken cannabis laws. And I want to hasten to add that this in no way negates the need to move forward with other areas of legalization… But this is sort of a foundational question. No matter where you are, there’s no reason the federal government should impede this critical research.”

Harris, for his part, pointed out that he and Blumenauer probably disagree more vigorously with one another about marijuana legalization than any two other members of Congress. But “we agree 100 percent that we need to do this research,” he said.

“Now, unfortunately, because of the public policy we’ve had in place with marijuana and its scheduling, [research] simply couldn’t be done,” Harris, who is a medical doctor, said. “You can’t do it under the current scheduling… This is on us. It shouldn’t have taken so long to get to this point.”

As NORML’s Paul Armentano wrote previously in The Hill, the DEA has stifled research on a number of fronts:

It’s been nearly three years since the Drug Enforcement Administration formally announced plans to facilitate FDA-approved marijuana-related research in the United States. Unfortunately, in the 36 months since then, the agency has woefully failed to follow through on their pledge.

***

Moreover, U-Miss’s “research-grade” marijuana is only available to scientists in the form in rolled cigarettes. Marijuana-infused oils, edibles and capsules — items that are now commonplace in both medical and adult-use states — are not available to investigators absent explicit permission from the DEA to import such products from countries outside of the United States.

Scientists wishing to better study the effects cannabis plant in controlled human trials have long been aware of these onerous hurdles, which often discourage many investigators from engaging in such activities.

Like the MORE Act, this research bill faces an uncertain future with the Mitch McConnell-led Senate. However, unlike the MORE Act, this legislation was passed in a bipartisan manner, elevating hopes that McConnell will allow it to proceed. Whether HR 3797 ultimately passes this year or not, its future, and the future of the cannabis community is certainly very bright. Let’s keep the fire going.

HISTORIC: United States House Votes to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition

The fight to end cannabis prohibition has been a state by state battle, with advocates even turning towards local decriminalization or even “lowest law enforcement priority” measures over the past several decades. Starting with Oregon decriminalizing personal amounts back in 1973, the cannabis reform movement was jump started by California legalizing medicinal use in 1998, and then the dam really started to break when Colorado and Washington legalized adult use in 2012, and now, we have FINALLY garnered a positive vote to end prohibition at the federal level.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passed 228 to 164 today along a mostly party line vote, with five Republicans joining the right side of history and six Democrats clinging to the failed policy of prohibition. Even though the MORE Act is unlikely to pass the Mitch McConnell-controlled Senate during this lame duck 2020 session, a few Senate seats changing hands in the next couple of years, could pave the way in that chamber. And with the next Vice President a co-sponsor, it seems like passage in the near future is within our grasp.

Cannabis community, today is a day for celebration. The People’s House has finally voted along with the will of the people. We are the supermajority and we have taken the next steps towards achieving freedom and equality across our nation. This is a joyous milestone and a great achievement for everyone that has been working to reform our unjust cannabis laws. Soon, it’s back to work.

Oregon’s Representative Earl Blumenauer deserves about as much credit as anyone for the passage of the MORE Act, and he released this statement following its passage:

House Passes Historic Cannabis Reform Legislation

The MORE Act would end the failed federal cannabis prohibition and ensure restorative justice

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation supported by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to end the federal prohibition of cannabis and ensure restorative justice for those impacted by it. 

Although cannabis will soon be legal in 15 states for adult use and in 36 states for medical use, it remains criminalized at the federal level, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and wasting billions of dollars on the selective enforcement of an outdated and harmful system. Today’s historic vote – the bill passed the House 228 – 164 – marked the first time a full chamber of Congress voted to end this prohibition.

“I have worked on this issue for 47 years,” Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said on the House floor on Friday, prior to the final vote. “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.”

The continued enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws results in over 600,000 arrests annually, disproportionately impacting people of color who are almost four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts, despite equal rates of use across populations. Too often, cases of low-level cannabis possession escalate to police violence. For many, the selective enforcement of cannabis prohibition becomes a matter of life and death.  
 

People of color have also been historically targeted by discriminatory prosecution and sentencing practices. Black men receive drug sentences that are 13.1 percent longer than sentences imposed for white men. Latinos are nearly 6.5 times more likely to receive a federal sentence for cannabis possession than non-Hispanic whites. Once released, people of color often continue to be robbed of their dignity, as having a felony conviction can impact the ability to get an education, secure gainful employment, or vote.

The MORE Act centers racial justice by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level and enacting other policies, including:  

  • Expungement and resentencing: Requires federal courts to expunge marijuana arrests and convictions and resentence those still in custody or under court supervision for a marijuana offense, pursuant to a judicial review process. 
  • Immigration reform: In 2013, simple cannabis possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any offense and the most common cause of deportation for drug law violations. The MORE Act ensures that marijuana is no longer considered a controlled substance for purposes of the immigration laws—and does so retroactively. 
  • Non-discrimination protections: Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense. 
  • Juvenile protection: Ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juveniles arrested and convicted. 

The MORE Act also centers economic justice by ensuring that people of color are not shut out of the emerging regulated cannabis marketplace and reinvesting in communities most impacted by prohibition.

Legal cannabis sales totaled $9.5 billion in 2017 and are projected to reach $23 billion by 2022. However, fewer than one-fifth of cannabis business owners identify as minorities and only approximately four percent are Black. One reason for this gap is the historically disproportionate arrest and conviction rates that make it particularly difficult for people of color to enter the legal cannabis marketplace. 

In order to address inequalities in the legal cannabis marketplace and ensure equal participation in the industry, the MORE Act supports:  

  • Restorative Justice Programs: Authorizes the assessment of a five percent excise tax on sales of marijuana and marijuana products to fund programs like reentry services and substance use treatment. 
  • Equitable Business Access: Fund programs to open up opportunities for loans to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and for states to implement equitable cannabis licensing programs. The MORE Act also requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure equitable participation. 
  • Small Business Support: Currently, federal law severely limits access to loans and capital for cannabis businesses, disproportionately impacting minority small business owners. The MORE Act would open Small Business Administration resources for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers. 

The full text of the legislation (H.R.3884) is available here

Video of Blumenauer speaking on the House floor earlier today about the MORE Act can be found here.

###

I was so happy to receive this kind, thoughtful email that Representative Blumenauer sent to Oregon cannabis law reform advocates:

Dear friends, 

Having just stepped off the floor of the House after voting for, and then witnessing the passage of the MORE Act, I wanted to express how much I appreciate your long-standing support and partnership. This was a truly historic vote and one that builds further momentum for our shared goal: federal legalization of cannabis. 

Yesterday, as I presided over the debate on this bill, I couldn’t help but recall the many conversations, conference calls, roundtable meetings—and yes, Zoom calls—I’ve had with Oregon’s cannabis community. Going all the way back to 2014 when Oregonians voted to legalize adult-use, and even in decades before then, you’ve provided me with thoughtful, pragmatic, and expert guidance. 

We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. It’s an important step towards rationalizing the policy. And while it’s a moment to celebrate, there is still more work to do. I look forward to continuing our partnership in the months ahead as a new session of Congress gets underway and we successfully eliminate the federal laws that restrict cannabis. 

But for right now, I just wanted to say thank you for your generous support and engagement in this fight. I deeply appreciate it. 

Courage, 

Earl  

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer Comments on Congressional Cannabis Legalization Vote

The United States House of Representatives debated the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today and tomorrow a historic vote to end federal cannabis prohibition is expected. Portland, Oregon’s very own Earl Blumenauer presided over today’s proceedings, wearing a facemask adorned with cannabis leaves. Congressman Blumenauer stated that he has been waiting on this moment in Congress for 47 years as he was a young legislator voting to help make Oregon the first state to decriminalize cannabis all the way back in 1973.

No matter where you stand on his other politics, Representative Blumenauer has been a great leader on cannabis issues. He has worked across the aisle with Republicans and has joined forces with conservative and libertarian activists when they could join forces to push for much-needed reforms like banking access and an end to the 280e tax code that severely hinders cannabis businesses.

As a political realist, I understand that passage of the MORE Act won’t happen in the Senate this year and it faces an uphill battle unless Senate leadership changes. However, as an advocate with more than two decades of experience fighting to legalize cannabis and end the failed and racist Drug War, I cannot be overjoyed by the prospect of the United States House of Representatives voting to end cannabis prohibition. I’m crossing my fingers for a strong vote tomorrow and my heart is full of gratitude for everyone that has put in any work to end the war being waged upon the cannabis community.

Representative Earl Blumenauer’s full press release today:

House to Vote on Historic Cannabis Reform Legislation

The MORE Act would end the failed federal cannabis prohibition and ensure restorative justice

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation supported by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to end the federal prohibition of cannabis and ensure restorative justice for those impacted by it. 

Although cannabis will soon be legal in 15 states for adult use and in 36 states for medical use, it remains criminalized at the federal level, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and wasting billions of dollars on the selective enforcement of an outdated and harmful system. The historic vote on Friday marks the first time a full chamber of Congress will vote to end this prohibition.

“I have been waiting for this historic moment for a long time. It is happening today because it has been demanded by the voters, by facts, and by the momentum behind this issue. This is an opportunity to strike a blow against the failed war on drugs, that has literally destroyed hundreds of thousands of young Black lives,” Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said on the House floor. “We are still arresting or citing 600,000 people a year for something that the majority of Americans now think should be legal. That’s why the voters in this country took it into their own hands. That is why today, 99 percent of the American population has some access to legalized cannabis. The MORE Act will help us set up a system moving forward.”

The continued enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws results in over 600,000 arrests annually, disproportionately impacting people of color who are almost four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts, despite equal rates of use across populations. Too often, cases of low-level cannabis possession escalate to police violence. For many, the selective enforcement of cannabis prohibition becomes a matter of life and death.  
 

People of color have also been historically targeted by discriminatory prosecution and sentencing practices. Black men receive drug sentences that are 13.1 percent longer than sentences imposed for white men. Latinos are nearly 6.5 times more likely to receive a federal sentence for cannabis possession than non-Hispanic whites. Once released, people of color often continue to be robbed of their dignity, as having a felony conviction can impact the ability to get an education, secure gainful employment, or vote.

The MORE Act centers racial justice by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level and enacting other policies, including:  

  • Expungement and resentencing: Requires federal courts to expunge marijuana arrests and convictions and resentence those still in custody or under court supervision for a marijuana offense, pursuant to a judicial review process. 
  • Immigration reform: In 2013, simple cannabis possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any offense and the most common cause of deportation for drug law violations. The MORE Act ensures that marijuana is no longer considered a controlled substance for purposes of the immigration laws—and does so retroactively. 
  • Non-discrimination protections: Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense. 
  • Juvenile protection: Ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juveniles arrested and convicted. 

The MORE Act also centers economic justice by ensuring that people of color are not shut out of the emerging regulated cannabis marketplace and reinvesting in communities most impacted by prohibition.

Legal cannabis sales totaled $9.5 billion in 2017 and are projected to reach $23 billion by 2022. However, fewer than one-fifth of cannabis business owners identify as minorities and only approximately four percent are Black. One reason for this gap is the historically disproportionate arrest and conviction rates that make it particularly difficult for people of color to enter the legal cannabis marketplace. 

In order to address inequalities in the legal cannabis marketplace and ensure equal participation in the industry, the MORE Act supports:  

  • Restorative Justice Programs: Authorizes the assessment of a five percent excise tax on sales of marijuana and marijuana products to fund programs like reentry services and substance use treatment. 
  • Equitable Business Access: Fund programs to open up opportunities for loans to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and for states to implement equitable cannabis licensing programs. The MORE Act also requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure equitable participation. 
  • Small Business Support: Currently, federal law severely limits access to loans and capital for cannabis businesses, disproportionately impacting minority small business owners. The MORE Act would open Small Business Administration resources for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers. 

A full vote on the MORE Act is expected Friday, December 4.

The full text of the legislation (H.R.3884) is available here

Featured photo credit: Earl Blumenauer’s Facebook page.

Federal Cannabis Legalization Vote Expected This Week

About a month after cannabis legalization won big at the 2020 ballot box across the nation, the United States House of Representatives is now expected to finally follow the will of the people and vote on ending cannabis this week. With a supermajority of Americans now favoring legalization, it certainly seems that now is the time for the U.S. House to cast a historic vote against a failed and racist war that has been waged for far to long against the cannabis community.

Pete Danko of the Portland Business Journal reported:

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer late last week advised members that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act — the MORE Act — would be among bills taken up by the House sometime between Wednesday evening and Friday.

The bill would de-schedule cannabis, expunge many convictions, tax sales at 5%, invest in grant programs with a heavy focus on social equity and give cannabis businesses access to Small Business Administration loans.

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus, co-founded and co-chaired by Oregon’s own Earl Blumenauer issued a letter to their House colleagues, urging them to pass the MORE Act to take a big step towards ending the federal War on Drugs. Blumenauer, along with co-chair Barbara Lee, stated that “This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.”

While passage in the Senate isn’t likely so long as Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell is in charge, it will be a big historic moment for the United States House of Representatives, the People’s House, to vote to legalize cannabis. Passage of the MORE Act will be one more step to ending a failed Drug War policy, and one more step towards freedom and equality for the cannabis community. Please contact your representative and urge them to support ending the harmful policy of cannabis prohibition.

The CCC’s full letter to House Colleagues:

Dear Colleague:  

One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws. There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end soon. We should lead the way by passing H.R.3884 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.  

Last week’s results reaffirm the strong bipartisan support to reform our failed cannabis prohibition. Even in states where Republicans easily swept elections, like in Mississippi and South Dakota, cannabis-related ballot measures passed with strong support. The success in Arizona, Montana, Mississippi, New Jersey and South Dakota means that cannabis will be legal for adult use in 15 states and medical use in 36 states. More than 109 million people will live in states where cannabis is legal for adults to use, that is more than one in three Americans. In total, almost 99% of Americans will live in states with some form of legal cannabis. We cannot ignore the will of the people any longer.   

This comes as no surprise—national support for federal cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, and trends show that support will continue to grow. Polling from the Pew Research Center shows that 67% of registered voters think “the use of cannabis should be made legal,” and the Center for American Progress found that 73% support expunging the records of those previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. This finding is confirmed by the fact that in the last three elections, 16 of the 18 pro-cannabis reform ballot initiatives were successful—even in places like Utah and Mississippi. 

This past election further demonstrated that cannabis reform is popular, non-partisan, and the just thing to do as states have also made clear their commitment to restorative justice. Montana, which ranks first in the country for having the largest racial disparities for cannabis arrests will allow an individual currently serving a sentence for a prior low-level cannabis offense to apply for resentencing or an expungement of the conviction. 

The recent success of cannabis reform in states around the country should give us a new sense of urgency to ensure Congress catches up with the American people. This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and Brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.

The House was poised to vote on the MORE Act, the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation we’ve ever seen, back in September. As the House kept our focus on providing struggling Americans with relief from COVID-19, we received commitment from our Caucus leadership that Congress would take steps to end the failed war on drugs by voting on the MORE Act before the year was over.   

We have an opportunity and duty to correct course now. As we head into the lame-duck session, we must remember the promise we made to the American people to pass the MORE Act. 

Thank you for your urgency.

Oregonians, Vote Yes on 110 to End Harmful Drug War Arrests and Convictions

Oregon has made a lot of progress ending harmful Drug War arrests and convictions, but there is still more work to be done. Let’s take the next step by passing Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act and move Oregon towards treating addiction with a health-based approach similar to the successful system that Portugal established nearly two decades ago. If you want to put an end to Drug War tragedies, such as the killing of Breonna Taylor, passing Measure 110 is a great start.

I’m honored to serve as a chief petitioner of this important measure, along with Haven Wheelock, a public health expert and advocate at Outside In, and Janie Gullickson, the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon. Measure 110 will end over 8,000 drug possession arrests and set aside over $100 million dollars for treatment and recovery programs that include job training, housing assistance, and harm reduction interventions.

As the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission notes, Measure 110 will end about 90% of all personal drug possession arrests. Currently, we are arresting nearly 9,000 people every year for misdemeanor drug possession, without funding adequate treatment programs. These arrests and convictions merely saddle people with criminal records, hurting their ability to get a job, an education, and housing. Further, as the justice commission states, Black and Indigenous Oregonians are disproportionately harmed by these drug arrests and convictions and Measure 110 will eliminate racial disparities of these harmful punishments by 95%.

Measure 110 pays for treatment, recovery, and harm reduction programs that include housing assistance, job training, and peer support by utilizing excess cannabis tax revenue. When Oregon first voted to legalize cannabis, only $40 million was expected to be brought in. Now, the state brings in over 3x that amount. Measure 110 locks in the first $45 million for the programs originally scheduled for funding and the Oregon Legislature ensured that the $9 billion dollar school budget will NOT be cut, thus money that is earmarked for law enforcement will now go to funding more treatment and recovery programs.

Measure 110 is a win-win for Oregon. If you are undecided, or know anyone that is undecided on the measure, have them read the endorsement of the Portland Mercury, or The Oregonian, and take a look at the long list of endorsers that include the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, the Oregon School Psychologist Association, and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP, formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

Longtime cannabis legalization supporter Congressman Earl Blumenauer is once again on the right side of history, urging Oregonians to end harmful Drug War possession arrests and treat drug use and addiction as a health issue, instead of a law enforcement one.