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Historic: Judiciary Committee Introduces Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

420 FILE--Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (NY) introduced The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. The Senate companion bill is carried by Senator Kamala Harris (CA). 

“After nearly a century of prohibition, it is clear this policy has been an absolute failure and a national disgrace. All we have to show for the war we have waged on marijuana is the egregious harms it has wrought upon tens-of-millions of our fellow citizens. By passing the MORE Act, Congress can begin to remedy the pain caused by the criminalization of marijuana. This bill provides a real federal solution by fully descheduling of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and providing relief to those suffering under the collateral consequences of having a marijuana charge on their record by facilitating the process of expungements. The American public is overwhelmingly ready to legalize marijuana, their elected officials in Washington need to finally start representing the will of the people and advance this sensible legislation,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. 

The MORE Act is the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced in the US Congress and is backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups. 

 “Never in American history has the Chairman of the Judiciary introduced a bill to end federal marijuana criminalization. At a time when the state you live in can determine whether cannabis can ruin your life or make you a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act embodies the need to legalize cannabis and restore the rights of those who have suffered under the cruel and failed policy of criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. 

If enacted, the bill would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policies. Descheduling will also allow the existing state-legal marijuana industry to no longer be barred from accessing financial services or standard tax treatment as every other legal business. Similarly, veterans will have better access to medical marijuana with VA doctors no longer risking federal prosecution for filling out state-legal medical recommendations.

Given the restrictions the marijuana industry has had to abide by under section 280E of the IRS code, existing enterprises would have a significantly lower overall tax burden than under the current policy of prohibition. 

The bill would tax marijuana products at a modest 5% to establish a Trust Fund to assist state and local governments in expunging criminal records and setting up regulatory structures for marijuana’s lawful production and distribution.

The Trust Fund would have three functions:

1).  A fund administrated by a newly created Office of Cannabis Justice to issue grants to communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs for the development of expungement processes, employment programs, reentry guidance, youth resources and more. The Office of Cannabis would be one of the Justice Programs in the Department of Justice. This provision is modeled on the Marijuana Justice Act, by Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA).

2). A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to encourage socially and economically disadvantaged people to enter the cannabis industry, similar to legislation introduced by Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (NY).

3). A fund administered by the Small Business Administration to create equitable licensing programs in states and local governments that benefit communities most impacted by the prohibition.

Currently, individuals with a marijuana conviction are saddled with collateral consequences, including a prohibition from obtaining federal benefits, student loans, or security clearances for government jobs due to marijuana’s criminalized status. To correct the historical injustices relating to prohibition, the MORE Act offers the opportunity to petition for resentencing and expungement. This will eliminate this discrimination and create new opportunities for individuals desperate to advance their careers, education, and quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the MORE Act because they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial solely based on a marijuana infraction. 

(Posted earlier at NORML.org.)

-cw