Tag: Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act

After the Shakeout in Washington, D.C., How Likely Is Cannabis Legalization?

Well, our nation has had a very eventful 2021 thus far, huh? With federal elections finally decided, and a new president set to take office on January 20th, there is one burning question that the cannabis community wants answered: Will cannabis be legalized in the next two years? This is pure speculation on my part, but I would put the chances that federal cannabis legalization is signed into law within the next two years at about 33%, up to a coin flip at best. I do think that we have good odds of seeing much-needed reforms, such as opening up all banking services to state-legal cannabis laws and fixing the 280e IRS tax code that arbitrarily taxes regulated cannabis businesses at an exorbitant rate.

After the United States House passed the historic Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act late last year, most cannabis law reform advocates celebrated the victory as a great step in the right direction, but noted that passage in the Senate was unlikely with Republican Mitch McConnell in charge. After the Georgia special elections in favor of Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Democrat Chuck Schumer will soon be the Senate Majority Leader, and Schumer has pledged to make cannabis legalization a priority. Now, we know that we can’t always expect politicians to follow through on their promises, so it’ll be imperative that we continue to pressure our representatives and let them know that they need to do the right thing and follow the will of the voters, by ending federal cannabis prohibition.

While cannabis legalization should be a no-brainer with strong majority support from voters across the nation, the Senate filibuster rule that can force most bills to need 60 votes to pass will stand as a huge obstacle to passing. The 60 votes could be overcome with some compromises and political horse trading, but Democratic leadership will need to really fight for legalization, and my hunch is that our elected officials will be busy with other issues regarding our health and economy, to place too much political capital in pushing through a legalization bill.

The cannabis community should be emboldened by our political position and strength and work hard to celebrate some major victories around banking, taxes, and other issues that will benefit us, and the nation at large. If we want local craft cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf to fully thrive, we need common sense reforms to pass. Success then begets success, and step by step, we’ll see legalization bills get closer and closer to passage, and if all things go right, we can see federal legalization pass in the near future. I hope that I’m too pessimistic about passage within the next two years, but I’m certainly optimistic about continuing to make good progress, step by step.

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.

U.S. House Will Vote on Cannabis Legalization this Month

When I first became a cannabis law reform advocate about twenty years ago, I figured that I had two decades of fight in me. If we didn’t end prohibition in a state by 2020, I would call it quits and pick up another cause to dedicate my time to. Well, thanks to the hard work and dedication of so many unsung activists, farmers, patients, and heroes, the movement managed to beat my timeline by 8 years and we’ve gained momentum each and every day since then. Most of the action has taken place at the state level, with just a few positive federal accomplishments, but we knew that it was only a matter of time before our successes at the state level would bring about federal change.

While the law ultimately won’t pass this year, it is still a great victory for the cannabis community that a legalization bill will be voted on by the United States House of Representatives this month. Politico was the first to report about the pending vote for H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act:

The MORE Act is not the only bill that would remove cannabis from the CSA, but because it expunges records and creates funding for grants to benefit people who have been negatively impacted by criminal enforcement, this bill has garnered the most support from Democrat leadership and legalization advocates.

“As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime champion of marijuana legalization.

Does this mean cannabis will be legal? No, the odds of this bill passing in the Senate are still very slim, given the opposition of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During this week’s Republicans National Convention, speakers criticized Democrats for purportedly prioritizing marijuana sales during the pandemic over more important services like health care and religious gatherings.

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It will be extremely interesting to see how the Democratic-led House ends up voting on the MORE Act. Very likely, the vote will be largely along party lines, but two Republicans did vote to pass the bill out of the Judiciary Committee. Hopefully, plenty of politicians, on both sides of the aisle will understand that there are both liberal and conservative reasons to be on the right side of history on ending cannabis prohibition.

While the legalization bill is probably dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, passage in the House will be another big step forward for the fight to end the failed and harmful war on cannabis. Very notable, one of the Senate co-sponsors, Kamala Harris, has a decent chance of being the next vice-president of the United States. Regardless of the where you stand politically or how the next presidential election turns out, it is easy to see that the cannabis legalization movement is only going to continue growing stronger and stronger over the coming years.