Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) announced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) would be scheduled for mark up this Wednesday, November 20. This action makes the MORE Act the first piece of comprehensive marijuana legislation to ever make it this far in Congress. The Drug Policy Alliance, along with a broad coalition of 11 national groups that came together as the Marijuana Justice Coalition, have worked for passage of marijuana reform legislation that gives back to the communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
“The data speaks for itself – low-income communities and communities of color have disproportionately borne the brunt of the devastation brought on by marijuana prohibition,” said Queen Adesuyi, National Affairs Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The MORE Act is the most robust bipartisan legislation so far not only to end federal marijuana prohibition, but also to ensure that the communities that have been hardest hit by prohibition are not left behind.”
Earlier in this session, another marijuana bill, the SAFE Banking Act, also moved forward. Drug Policy Alliance urged Members of Congress to ensure reform efforts prioritized ending prohibition and repairing its devastating harms.
In the last few months, several US Representatives–including House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, and long-time champions like Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Earl Blumenauer—played critical roles in moving the MORE Act forward.
“It would be a tragic mistake to have the only marijuana reform bill that passes this Congress be one that solely benefits the industry, despite both the unprecedented support for legalization nationally amongst Americans and all the harm that we know federal prohibition has caused to individuals and communities across this country,” said Adesuyi. “Fortunately, by ensuring the MORE Act moves forward, several leaders in the House are showing that they understand that this is a matter of fundamental justice that the US Congress needs to address.”
The MORE Act goes even further than previous bills and echoes a new set of principles for federal marijuana reform developed by DPA and other members of the Marijuana Justice Coalition, focused on racial justice and giving back to those most harmed by prohibition.
To do that, this bill would tax marijuana products at five percent to establish a trust fund which would:
- Provide grants to communities negatively impacted by the drug war for the development of record expungement processes, employment programs, reentry guidance, youth resources, and more
- Create more access to substance use treatment
- Encourage socially and economically disadvantaged people to enter the cannabis industry
- Create equitable licensing programs in states and local governments that benefit communities most impacted by prohibition
The legislation also aims to correct the historical injustices caused by prohibition by:
- Preventing the government from denying an individual federal benefits, student financial aid, or security clearances needed to obtain government jobs because of marijuana use
- Providing an opportunity for those convicted under marijuana laws to petition for resentencing and expungement
- Protecting immigrants that are at risk of deportation or citizenship denial based on a simple marijuana infraction
And to hold the industry accountable and ensure equity among those most harmed by prohibition, the MORE Act instructs the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect demographic data on the marijuana industry to ensure that people of color and those most economically disadvantaged are participating.
Sixty-eight percent of American voters support marijuana legalization. Thirty-three states plus the District of Columbia have laws that allow legal access to medical marijuana and 11 states plus the District of Columbia allow legal access to marijuana for adult use. Yet the continued enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws are responsible for more than 600,000 arrests in the United States every year. Black and brown people are disproportionately impacted, being four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people despite equal rates of consumption. Marijuana has also been one of the leading causes of deportation in the United States.