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Congressional Black And Hispanic Caucuses Focus On Marijuana Reform At Events

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Organizations affiliated with black and hispanic members of Congress both featured panels covering marijuana issues at conferences they hosted this week.

On Wednesday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute held a panel exploring the criminal justice, economic and public health aspects of cannabis legalization, which featured Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA). Experts discussed “marijuana policies, entrepreneurial opportunities, public health risks, and more,” according to the event’s website.

Madeline Martinez, executive director of NORML Oregon, spoke at the session and wrote in a Facebook post that it “was an amazing honor to be included.”

“As an activist who has been at the forefront of the reform movement for 20 years, it was a privilege to join my fellow Latinos at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to strategize solutions to towards solving the moral and economic failures of the war on drugs and crafting solutions that put minorities and those most affected by the war in the front of the line to reap the benefits of legalization,” Martinez told Marijuana Moment.

Interestingly, the panel was sponsored by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsible, an organization supported by several major alcohol corporations that’s working to prevent drunk driving.

The following day, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation kicked off its own marijuana panel: “The Black Experience In Cannabis,” which focused on civic engagement and community outreach issues.

On Friday, a separate CBC Foundation panel hosted by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) will tackle racial and social equity in the marijuana industry.

Taken together, the caucuses’ panels reflect a growing interest in ensuring that the voices of people of color are heard as more states opt to legalize cannabis—a subject that the CBC in particular has put significant energy toward.

For example, in July, the CBC emphasized that ending the federal prohibition of marijuana was one of ten “must-do policies” for the government in order to “address issues hurting both communities of color and rural communities.”

Beyond ending marijuana prohibition, the caucus has also previously called for the decriminalization of cannabis possession and use, automatic expungements for individuals convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses and an “easy path to expungement for those previously convicted of felonies for marijuana-related offense.”

And in May, CBC members introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from the list of federally banned substances.

Members argue that these legislative steps would right some of the wrongs perpetuated by the war on drugs. Prohibitionist policies have historically targeted communities of color, especially in terms of racially disproportionate marijuana enforcement.

Both the CHC and CBC events also incorporated discussion about issues that have evolved in states post-legalization—namely, how racially discriminatory marijuana enforcement efforts have had residual effects on individuals previously convicted of a cannabis-related offense. Reform advocates have pushed for inclusive marijuana policies that empower those most impacted by the drug war to be represented in the legal industry.

Black Lawmakers: Marijuana Decrim Is ‘Must-Do’ In First 100 Days of Democratic Congress

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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