Tag: Earl Blumenauer

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.

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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.

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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.

Justice Delayed: Cannabis Legalization Vote Postponed Until After the Election

It has been widely reported that the United States House of Representatives was going to vote on a cannabis legalization bill this month. Apparently, after a pushback from moderates, no vote will occur this month or next month. A vote on the MORE Act to end federal cannabis prohibition is now expected after the November 3rd election, during the lame duck session.

Politico reported how legislators were starting to get cold feet on holding a vote on legalization, despite broad public support:

Removing federal penalties for marijuana looked like an easy win for Democrats two weeks ago, but the momentum has stalled.

Democrats have been scared off by Republicans’ use of the marijuana bill to bludgeon Democrats on the lack of a coronavirus deal, and moderates in tight races worry it will be linked to hits they’re already taking over the “defund the police” movement. So instead of embracing the progressive messaging of this bill as an election win, House leaders are now thinking about punting marijuana until after November 3.

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Marijuana legalization has far-reaching national support from Democrats, independents and even a majority of Republicans, multiple polls show. Democrats have touted the MORE Act all summer as a criminal justice reform bill, amid ongoing protests over racial equity that a majority of the public supports. A disproportionate number of Black or brown people are arrested for cannabis possession each year, and this bill aims to reduce arrests and erase some marijuana criminal records.

Marijuana Moment got confirmation that a vote had been postponed:

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), cochair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said on Wednesday that she was open to delaying the vote if it meant that more members would sign onto it, but she also told Marijuana Moment that lawmakers would be “doing everything we can over the next week to build broad coalitions of support to ensure that happens sooner rather than later.”

The MORE Act would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a federal five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war.

It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to its use.

It’s a serious shame that election-year politics is complicating a historic vote to end federal cannabis prohibition. It’s a shame first and foremost because legalization is simply the right thing to do. Too many people are still having their lives ruined by cannabis arrests and too many small businesses operating legally under state law, are hindered by federal laws that deprive them of banking services and arbitrarily overtaxes them above and beyond what other businesses must endure.

It’s rather nonsensical that politics is disrupting a vote on the MORE Act because voters overwhelmingly support cannabis legalization. Yes, voters are more concerned about other issues, but a vote to end prohibition doesn’t prevent Congress from passing any other bills. Has anyone ever punished a politician for passing a bill that they actually support? Just a maddening move by the United States House.

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) just released the following statement on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act:

“As Americans confront hundreds of years of systemic racial injustice, ending the failed war on drugs that has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown Americans must be front and center. As co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, our goal has always been a vote on federal marijuana legalization and restorative justice this Congress. We have worked to build support for this historic legislation and expected a vote next week. Thankfully, the leadership has now given an ironclad commitment that the House will consider the bill this fall. The public deserves this vote and we will continue to build support to meet our objective of passing the MORE Act in the House and sending it to the Senate, which is one step closer to enacting it into law.”

In spite of the delay, the cannabis community can still take solace knowing that the first legalization vote in history will be held sooner, rather than later. It’s taken a long time for Congress to catch up with the American people on cannabis, another month or two isn’t going to set us back too much. We’ve been fighting for freedom and equality for decades now, we aren’t about to be stopped.

Federal Representatives Urge Colleagues Legalize Cannabis to Promote Racial Justice

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer made cannabis legalization and drug decriminalization a part of his police accountability plan recently and now he, and Representative Barbara Lee, are urging their colleagues to legalize cannabis as part of the movement to bring about racial justice. Cannabis prohibition has been a racist policy from its inception and the consequences have definitely had a racist impact as Black Americans are much more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for cannabis, even though use among races is about equal. Marijuana Moment reported on the Reps. Blumenauer and Lee’s “Dear Colleague” letter:

“We have all seen the pernicious effects of selective enforcement of cannabis prohibition across the country, and it is not just in red states or rural Republican America,” the letter states. “We have seen for the last 50 years the cannabis prohibition used disproportionately against people of color, especially young Black men. The use of cannabis is fairly uniform across different racial groups, but the people caught up in the net of cannabis enforcement are heavily skewed towards these young Black men.”

“It is time that we as Democrats take a stand against this pernicious hold-over from Richard Nixon’s blatant attempt at criminalizing the behavior of African Americans,” the two lawmakers, who are co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, wrote, adding that prohibition has contributed to mass incarceration across the country.

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“We urge you to examine these issues, the legislative options, and to make federal cannabis reform part of the communities’ support in their quest for racial justice. We have information in greater specificity, if you wish, and have other pieces of legislation that will improve this tragic situation. Regardless, we hope you will be mindful of this rank injustice and the overwhelming support, which includes 93 percent of voters under 30. The cannabis reform train has left the station.”

As federal lawmakers debate legislation to address police accountability, reduce violent encounters with law enforcement, and bring about more racial justice, they should heed Reps. Blumenauer and Lee’s call to end cannabis prohibition. A whopping 40% of all arrests are for cannabis. Each law enforcement encounter has the chance of turning violent and each conviction can unnecessarily deprive someone of their freedom and employment, educational, and housing opportunities. It’s time that Congress follow the will of the voters and end federal cannabis prohibition. It won’t solve our racial issues, but it is one piece of the puzzle.

Oregon Congressman: Legalize Cannabis and Decriminalize Drugs to Reduce Police Violence

As the United States combats our history of systemic racism and police brutality, many of us are searching for the right answers. What police reforms are needed? Is reforming the police enough? Do we need to disband police and start with a new system of community protection services? Should we defund police? What does it mean to defund the police exactly? As we grapple with all of these questions, and more, Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer has issued a federal action plan on reducing police violence that includes ending cannabis prohibition and decriminalizing drugs:

Policing Alternatives

Only 5% of arrests in America have been for violent crimes. In 2018, the highest number of arrests were for drug offesnes. Over 40% of these drug arrests were for cannabis, with over 90% being just for possession of the drug. Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis possession, even though they use cannabis at about the same rate. Reducing police interactions by using non-law enforcement to deal with minor crimes and activities, and repealing punitive drug laws could reduce the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color. We need to rethink the way police are used and encourage alternative policing models that address institutional racism as they are being created.

Promote Alternatives to Policing
• Provide federal funding to support local innovation of non-law enforcement alternatives.
• Increase funding for federal grant programs that support partnerships between law enforcement and mental health associations.
• Repeal policies that incentivize over-policing of communities of color, including the prohibition of cannabis and the decriminalization of other drugs.

Representative Blumenauer has been a leader on cannabis policy since he was a young state legislator voting to make Oregon the first state to decriminalize cannabis in the early 1970s. As time has gone along, Rep. Blumenauer has become a stronger and stronger leader, helping found the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus and taking on the harms of the Drug War. It is common sense that cannabis prohibition and the greater War on Drugs has failed us, with harmful and racist consequences. Let’s keep of the momentum folks, because the times, they are a-changin’.

Credit Unions Join the Call for Cannabis Industry Coronavirus Assistance

The cannabis industry has become too intertwined within our society and economy to continue this second-class treatment of lacking access to banking and other services that are available to other business sectors, even those not deemed as “essential” to our local economies. Essential cannabis workers are risking their lives like grocery clerks and other crucial employees keeping some semblance of our economy going and it’s past time that they start getting treated with some type of fairness. Of course, cannabis trade groups have been clamoring for some equality, but now, credit unions are joining the fray, in another step forward for the burgeoning industry.

Marijuana Moment reported:

In a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday, the American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH), Policy Center for Public Health and Safety and 28 partnering groups and financial institutions noted that the marijuana industry and ancillary businesses that work with state-legal cannabis markets are specifically excluded from loans and lending programs provided for under several packages of COVID-19 legislation that have been approved.

To that end, the coalition made two recommendations: 1) issue pandemic relief block grants for states to decide on their own how to allocate the funds or 2) amend current federal coronavirus aid eligibility requirements to allow cannabis businesses to get funds that are available to other companies.

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“The decision to bar the legal cannabis industry from these relief programs not only harms the longevity of the industry but also the hardworking Americans who rely on the industry for their livelihood,” the groups wrote to congressional leaders. “Cannabis companies are good corporate citizens and readily participate in pandemic-related measures to care for their workforce such as mandatory paid sick leave and working to care for those with the virus.”

This latest push falls on the heels of a bill proposed by Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer and Colorado’s Earl Perlmutter to make cannabis industry participants eligible for relief during the coronavirus pandemic crisis. From the April 23rd press release issued by the representatives:

Reps. Blumenauer and Perlmutter Introduce Legislation to Make Cannabis Businesses Eligible for COVID-19 Relief

Washington D.C. – Today, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Ed Perlmutter (CO-07) introduced legislation that would make cannabis businesses eligible for Small Businesses Administration (SBA) COVID-19 relief programs.

Currently, state-legal cannabis businesses are being left out of relief that was established to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, they are unable to access and participation in SBA’s loan programs—financial support that is designed to pay workers, health care benefits, and family or sick leave. This legislation would grant state-legal cannabis businesses eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and Economic Injury Disaster Loans emergency advances.

“As Congress seeks to provide relief to small businesses across America, chief among those being left out are state-legal cannabis businesses that are essential to communities and have met the demands of this crisis,” said Rep. Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “We should include state-legal cannabis in federal COVID-19 response efforts.  Without providing these businesses the relief needed to carry out the recommended public health and worker-focused measures, we are putting these hard-working people – and ourselves – at risk.”

“Cannabis businesses are major employers and significant contributors to local economies in Colorado and across the country,” said Rep. Perlmutter (CO-07). “They should receive the same level of support as other legal, legitimate businesses and be eligible for SBA relief funds during this COVID-19 crisis.”

 Blumenauer also led a bipartisan coalition of nearly three dozen Congressmembers in calling on House leadership to ensure cannabis businesses are included in future relief efforts.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

Virtually every industry is hurting, and even though cannabis businesses remain open in legal states during this crisis, they are impacted by required safety precautions, massive unemployment, and supply chain disruptions, like any other business sector. The difference is that cannabis companies often don’t have access to bank accounts, loans, grants, insurance, and other services available to businesses, all they while, being taxed at an exorbitant rate because of the 280e tax provision. It’s time that Congress, and our society give our essential workers the protections and tools they need to navigate this frightening phase, and the cannabis industry should be no different.