Historic Action Makes the MORE Act the First Comprehensive Cannabis Legislation to Come this Far in Congress
November 18, 2019 – Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) announced the Cannabis 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 cannabis 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 Cannabis Justice Coalition, have worked for passage of cannabis 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 cannabis 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 cannabis prohibition, but also to ensure that the communities that have been hardest hit by prohibition are not left behind.”
Earlier in this session, another cannabis 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 cannabis 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 cannabis reform developed by DPA and other members of the Cannabis Justice Coalition, focused on racial justice and giving back to those most harmed by prohibition.
To do that, this bill would tax cannabis 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 cannabis use
- Providing an opportunity for those convicted under cannabis laws to petition for resentencing and expungement
- Protecting immigrants that are at risk of deportation or citizenship denial based on a simple cannabis 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 cannabis industry to ensure that people of color and those most economically disadvantaged are participating.
Sixty-eight percent of American voters support cannabis legalization. Thirty-three states plus the District of Columbia have laws that allow legal access to medical cannabis and 11 states plus the District of Columbia allow legal access to cannabis for adult use. Yet the continued enforcement of cannabis 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 cannabis than white people despite equal rates of consumption. Cannabis has also been one of the leading causes of deportation in the United States.
About Drug Policy Alliance
The Drug Policy Alliance envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, in which people are no longer punished for what they put into their own bodies but only for crimes committed against others, and in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more. Our mission is to advance those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the autonomy of individuals over their minds and bodies. Learn more at drugpolicy.org
Matt Sutton, 212-613-8026, [email protected]