Tag: MORE Act

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.

More than Just a Promise for Votes and Money: Congress Needs to to Deliver on Cannabis

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been saying all of the right things on cannabis ever since he first introduced a bill to end federal prohibition on April 20th, 2018. Legalization has proven to be a very popular policy with supermajority support. Cannabis reform was touted widely by Schumer, newly-elected Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, and other Democrats as they gained control of the Senate for the first time in a decade, and now is the time to deliver. I’m not politically naive to believe that ending the failed and racist war on cannabis will be at the top of any politician’s list, but Schumer has stated that reforms are a part of the party’s economic and criminal justice platforms. As Marijuana Moment reported, Sen. Schumer recently sent out a fundraising email touting cannabis policy changes after climate change and economic inequality:

“Next is criminal justice reform—and voters agree,” he wrote. “Voters in four more states this election voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, and that proves once again it’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities, particularly in Black and brown communities. It’s time to decriminalize marijuana nationally.”

Last month, the majority leader pledged that he, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) would release a draft bill to end federal marijuana prohibition “in the early part of this year.” The three senators followed that up by holding a meeting with cannabis reform groups to discuss the plan.

While it’s not clear what the draft Senate marijuana reform proposal will entail, or when it will be released, Schumer said lawmakers are in the process of merging various pieces of existing legislation.

Politicians make a lot of promises and no one can expect that they will keep them all, but you can’t blame voters for being disillusioned when you make a promise, tout that promise, fundraise off of that promise, and then don’t deliver when you are given the power and opportunity to do so. With the Senate split 50-50 and a Democrat or two potentially being squishy on legalization, Schumer may need to reach across the aisle to Rand Paul, who has been libertarian-minded on cannabis policy (maybe not as good as his father Ron, but still) or a Republican like Lisa Murkowski who represents a state with legal cannabis to get things done. He better try. And if legalization is too big of a political lift, we best see cannabis banking services allowed via the SAFE Banking Act or put an end to the 280e IRS tax code that punished state-regulated cannabis businesses, especially small craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf. With the House expected to pass a version of the MORE Act again, the Senate will be put on the spot and if Senator Schumer’s promises turn out to be smoke and mirrors, well, his term as Senate Majority Leader will likely be a short one.

California Bill Would Outlaw Most Employment Cannabis Drug Tests, Oregon Should Follow Suit

The cannabis community today occupies a unique place in our society. We can celebrate being at an apex of the legalization movement with more than a dozen states, a few territories, and our nation’s capitol with legal cannabis, along with more than 30 states allowing medicinal use. All of the success at the state level propelled the United States House of Representatives to vote to end federal cannabis prohibition with the MORE Act last year, with hopes that an even better version of the legalization bill, with important equity provisions will pass this year. New Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that legalization is a part of the Democratic Party’s racial justice platform, President Joe Biden improved upon his pro-Drug War history announcing his support for decriminalization, and a supermajority of Americans now support sweeping cannabis prohibition into the dustbin of history where it belongs. The mainstreaming of cannabis has gone far beyond political beliefs, with the substance garnering more and more positive cultural visibility as more people are coming out of the “cannabis closet.”

Still there are still too many inequalities that exist for the industry and those that utilize cannabis. While the lack of banking access hurts state-regulated businesses and their vendors, those that choose to utilize cannabis still face discrimination in employment practices. While everyone, save for the most rabid Reefer Madness prohibitionists, understand that cannabis is one of the safest and least addictive drugs one may use, it is the most likely substance to show up on an employment drug test because the inactive metabolites of THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid, can still be present in a urine test a full month after usage, even though the user is not impaired whatsoever. Not only do drug tests unnecessarily harm cannabis consumers, they can actually push people into using more addictive and lethal substances as most flush out of your system within a couple of days. One California legislator is hoping to change this, introducing a bill that will ban most employment drug screenings for cannabis, as The Sacramento Bee reports:

A new bill in the Legislature aims to end a still common employment practice five years after Californians voted to legalize recreational cannabis in which private companies require can workers to test for marijuana use.

Assembly Bill 1256, introduced by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, is intended to prevent employers from using past evidence of marijuana use, such as a hair or urine test, as justification for discrimination against an employee, such as denying or terminating employment, according to Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, a sponsor of the bill.

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The bill’s current language carries several exemptions.

Employers under a federal mandate to test for THC, or that would lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit for failing to test for THC. Also exempted would be employers in the building and construction trades.

Oregon, and every state that has legalized cannabis, should follow suit. The cannabis industry has been deemed “essential” during the COVID pandemic, creating jobs and generating revenue during a perilous economic emergency. The consumers that are fueling record-breaking sales and tax revenue numbers shouldn’t be fearful of losing their jobs and employees shouldn’t be denied a relatively safe substance that is legal under their state’s law. It’s time for states to take can important move forward in treating the cannabis community equally under the law.

Like GameStop, Cannabis Stocks Are Currently on a Reddit-Inspired Adventure

The financial world was set ablaze by the Reddit-inspired GameStop stock purchases that pit everyday investors against billion-dollar hedge funds. Wealthy hedge funds placed huge bets that video game retailer GameStop’s stock would decrease, so members of the Wallstreetbets forum (known as a subreddit to those that utilize the Reddit website) urged folks to purchase GameStop stocks, causing the price to skyrocket and costing hedge funds billions of dollars.

The entire Reddit vs. the Hedge Funds GameStop battle created quite the kerfuffle, especially when some brokerages like the Robin Hood app prohibited purchases of Gamestop. It was a whole thing and if you need an explanation, there the GameStop Short Squeeze Wikipedia page provides a breakdown. As I previously blogged, Canadian cannabis company Tilray was involved in a short squeeze itself. Several cannabis stocks have recently been publicized by the Wallstreetbets subreddit this week, sending the stocks up for a day, but then they tumbled back down.

While this Reddit-inspired rollercoaster-like adventure for cannabis stocks has some similarities with the GameStop saga, a big difference is that the cannabis industry is poised to have a brighter future, while video game stores are likely on their way out as the industry has moved online. While there is some gambling involved in trying to gauge when cannabis is going to be regulated federally like beer and wine and who the winners and losers will be, investors can, and should, do their due diligence in figuring out which companies have bright futures and which are more likely flash in the pans.

With cannabis will likely be in the news a lot over the coming years as piecemeal legislation gets passed, such as the SAFE Banking Act and speculation will arise if and when the House takes up the MORE Act again in an attempt to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level, cannabis stocks will probably be a volatile investment to own. However, to those that weather the storm and find the right companies that are poised to capture significant market share, the sky will be the limit. I’m no stock expert, so please do your research and listen to those that know a log more than me about the market, but it is apparent that opportunities will abound both short and longer term. Buyer beware and best of luck, investors.

How Confident Are You that Cannabis Will Be Legal by 2024?

The website Fivethirtyeight.com is a go-to website for many of us political poll watchers as the site compiles polls and provides a sober analysis of the political issues of the day. For a sports fan like myself, the site throws in a few sportsballs takes as well. The site features a “Confidence Interval” segment where one or more of their analysts lays out their confidence level regarding a certain political take. Today, the site tackled whether cannabis will be legal by 2024 at the federal level, with the insight provided by senior writer Amelia Thomson-Deveaux. I agree with her analysis.

First, some of the good news, as Thomson-Deveaux lays out: cannabis legalization has grown increasingly popular across political demographics, with a supermajority among Democrats and majority support with Republicans and the House passed the MORE Act last year. But, the more sobering news: political support by the people doesn’t equate with automatic support from politicians; just because support among Republicans has hit 50%, that doesn’t mean that GOP politicians will now support legalization.

As I’ve previously blogged, Thomson-Deveaux agrees that we can expect a more piecemeal approach, with Congress passing positive legislation, such as the SAFE Banking Act, as we inch step by step closer to ending cannabis prohibition. I agree with this “hot take” and would love to be proven wrong. One one hand, it can be very discouraging that we are still having to fight for such an obvious change in federal law. On the other hand, it can be encouraged by the fact that we have come a long way over the past decade. Ten years ago, there were no states with legal cannabis. Now, we have 15 states, with more on the horizon. While we may not get the legalization bill that we want by 2024, we are making great progress and just need to keep speaking the truth and holding our elected officials accountable. Step by step, state by state, the truth and common sense are setting us free.

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE VIDEO ON FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM

Step by Step Towards Legalization, Congress Should Pass SAFE Banking Act

Yes, it’s way past time that cannabis be legalized. Science and common sense as swept Reefer Madness into the dustbin of history. A supermajority of Americans support ending prohibition and view legalization as inevitable. Vice President Kamala Harris co-sponsored the MORE Act last year. And the new Senate Democratic Majority is on the record supporting the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and just included cannabis reform as a part of his racial and economic justice policy platform. Momentum is clearly behind the cannabis community and there has never been a better time for federal drug policy reformers.

However, political momentum is about to crash into political reality once again. There’s a saying in baseball that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. The baseball cliche means that a team can be on a great winning streak, but a fantastic game by the opposing team’s pitcher or a bad game by their own pitcher, can cause them to lose the next game. Previously, Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate was an immovable object that could stifle both legislation introduced in the Senate, even if supported by fellow Republicans, and reforms passed by the House. Now, McConnell is in the minority, but the filibuster, the hotly debated Senate rule that allows any senator to force legislation to need 60 votes to pass, instead of a simple majority. With a 50-50 Senate, it seems likely that full legalization, whether it’s the STATES Act or the MORE Act will be filibustered and have a difficult time garnering 60 votes.

Where should cannabis reformers look to continue the momentum over the next two years? The SAFE Banking Act. Allowing state-regulated cannabis businesses to utilize banking services will be huge for the industry, especially for craft cannabis boutiques like Kind Leaf. Small businesses and mom and pops are at a huge disadvantage compared to multinational corporations without arbitrary banking regulations and fees, let alone being prohibited from banking and loans with most financial institutions.

Forbes, reporting on potential cannabis reforms over the next two years:

In addition to the STATES and MORE Acts, another notable pro-cannabis measure that has been languishing in the Senate since its passage in the House of Representatives has been the SAFE Banking Act, which allows banks and other financial institutions to work with cannabis companies without fear of prosecution. This is a critical piece of legislation, which if passed, would be a watershed as many cannabis businesses are forced to operate as cash-only enterprises because of the federal illegality.

Fighting for legalization can be maddening at times, when it is so obvious that the war on cannabis is a terrible failure, but we must be realistic and not be discouraged to continue what has worked for us thus far: positive change step by step. Oregon first decriminalized in 1973, California passed medical in 1996, and then Colorado and Washington legalized in 2012. Success begets success. Passing the SAFE Banking Act will help out cannabis businesses and improve public safety and it will be a prudent next step to build upon as we march towards true freedom and equality for the cannabis community.

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.

New Poll: Voters Prefer Candidates that Support Cannabis Legalization

The passage of the MORE Act, the historic bill that would end federal cannabis prohibition, was a major milestone for the cannabis community, and it fulfilled a campaign promise by United States House of Representatives leadership. However, a new poll out finds that House leaders made a mistake of postponing a vote on the measure until after the November general election. While political opponents have criticized MORE Act supporters for passing the bill while the nation faces so many serious issues related to the COVID pandemic, polling shows that, SURPRISE, voters prefer candidates that support issues with strong majority support, such as cannabis legalization.

Marijuana Moment reported on the poll commissioned by Data For Progress, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement and New Deal Strategies. The survey questioned 1,375 likely voters in 13 congressional swing districts:

Asked whether they support legalizing cannabis for adult use, 57 percent of respondents in the swing districts said they did. That includes 71 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents and 38 percent of Republicans.

What’s more, “marijuana legalization—a major progressive proposal—appears to additionally be a popular persuasion policy for independent voters” whose support could make or break tight races. And while only just over one-third of Republican voters said they favor the policy change in this survey, that is still an important figure, the groups said.

“This significant and growing support for marijuana legalization across party lines demonstrates clear potential for the Democratic Party to capitalize on the popularity of marijuana legalization as a key part of their policy agenda,” they wrote said.

Let this be a lesson to politicians. Cannabis legalization is a winning issue. Do not be afraid of supporting a policy that has strong majority support across our nation. The upcoming Georgia special election determining control of the U.S. Senate will be a decent test of this theory with Democrats Reverend Ralph Warnock and Joel Ossoff supporting legalization while Republican Kelly Loeffler has criticized the the MORE Act and her fellow Republican Senator David Perdue hasn’t supported legalization either. With the GOP’s Mitch McConnell blocking cannabis legalization legislation as Senate President, based upon polling the Democrats would be wise to highlight the need to end prohibition, while the Georgia Republican Senators should rethink their support of the failed, harmful, and unpopular policy of prohibition.

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.