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Congressional Black Caucus Pushes Major Marijuana Reforms

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Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) introduced a 1,227-page bill on Thursday that calls for the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act—among many other far-reaching proposals—as part of an effort to foster racial justice and stimulate job growth in the United States.

Not only is the caucus, headed by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), seeking federal cannabis reform, the Jobs and Justice Act would also establish a “reinvestment fund” for communities adversely impacted by the war on drugs. That would include grants for job training, funds to clear past cannabis convictions, public libraries and community centers, according to the text of the bill.

The Jobs and Justice Act would also eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug offenses. It’s comprehensive in scope, including numerous provisions such as prohibiting racial profiling, abolishing the federal death penalty, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and making mid-term and presidential elections federal holidays.

“2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,” a statement from the CBC reads. “While Dr. King is well known for his efforts to champion social justice issues, he and many other civil rights activists of the day fought for economic justice as well. In addition to voting rights and equal protections under the law, every man, woman, and child deserves equal access to economic opportunities.”

Marijuana descheduling in the Jobs and Justice Act

The new bill comes as the Marijuana Justice Act, which was introduced with a similar intent to end racially disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws across the country, is gaining momentum. The legislation, filed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)—and co-sponsored by several other potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and most recently, Kamala Harris (D-CA)—would end the federal prohibition of cannabis and penalize states with disproportionate marijuana enforcement.

Though the Jobs and Justice Act appears unlikely advance in the current Congress, it serves as the latest signal that federal marijuana politics are shifting at a rapid pace—and Democrats certainly seem to be working to capitalize on the issue’s popularity among voters.

Kamala Harris Is Officially All In On Marijuana Legalization

See the full text of the Jobs and Justice Act below:

Jobs and Justice Act of 2018 by tomangell on Scribd

Photo courtesy of David.

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Kyle Jaeger is an LA-based contributor to Marijuana Moment. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, and attn.

Politics

O’Rourke And Cruz Clash On Marijuana And Drugs At Senate Debate

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Candidates in one of the most contentious U.S. Senate races in the country this year clashed about the issues of marijuana legalization and drug policy reform during a debate on Friday night.

“I want to end the war on drugs and specifically want to end the prohibition on marijuana,” Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke said in response to an attack on his drug policy record from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whom he is seeking to unseat in November.

During one of the most heated exchanges of the hour-long debate, the GOP incumbent slammed O’Rourke for sponsoring an amendment as an El Paso city councilman in 2009 that called for a debate on legalizing drugs as a possible solution to violence along the Mexican border.

“I think it would be a profound mistake to legalize all narcotics and I think it would hurt the children of this country,” Cruz argued.

He also criticized a bill the Democrat filed in Congress to repeal a law that reduces highway funding for states that don’t automatically suspend drivers licenses for people convicted of drug offenses. “That’s a real mistake and it’s part of pattern,” he said.

“There’s a consistent pattern when it comes to drug use, that in almost every single instance, Congressman O’Rourke supports more of it.”

Calling the issue “personal to me,” Cruz spoke about his older sister, who died of a drug overdose.

“To be clear, I don’t want to legalize heroin and cocaine and fentanyl,” O’Rourke countered.

“What I do want to ensure is that where, in this country, most states have decided that marijuana will legal at some form—for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes or at a minimum be decriminalized—that we don’t have another veteran in this state, prescribed an opioid because the doctor at the VA would rather prescribe medicinal marijuana but is prohibited by law from doing that,” he said.

Enumerating other potential beneficiaries of cannabis reform, the Democrat also referenced an “older woman with fibromyalgia” and “an African-American man, because more likely than not, that’s who will be arrested for possession of marijuana, to rot behind bars, instead of enjoying his freedom and the opportunity to contribute to the greatness of this country.”

Cruz, who called O’Rourke, “one of the leading advocates in the country for legalizing marijuana,” said that he thinks ending cannabis prohibition “is actually a question on which I think reasonable minds can differ.”

“I’ve always had a libertarian bent myself,” he said. “I think it ought to be up to the states. I think Colorado can decide one way. I think Texas can decide another.”

But despite his support for letting states set their own cannabis laws, which he also voiced during his failed candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Cruz hasn’t cosponsored a single piece of legislation during his time in the Senate that would scale back federal marijuana prohibition.

Earlier in the debate, the two sparred over the killing this month of Botham Jean, an African-American man shot in his own apartment by a Dallas police officer, a subject about which O’Rourke recently made headlines by calling out in a fiery speech to a black church.

Marijuana In Texas: Where Ted Cruz And Beto O’Rourke Stand On Legalization

Photo courtesy of NBC News.

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Lawmaker Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In Kenya

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A Kenyan lawmaker is introducing legislation to legalize marijuana nationwide.

Member of Parliament Kenneth Okoth wrote a letter to the National Assembly speaker on Friday, requesting help to prepare the legislation so that it can be published.

The bill would decriminalize cannabis possession and use, clear criminal records of those with prior cannabis-related convictions, enact a legal and regulated commercial sales program and impose “progressive taxation measures” in order to “boost economic independence of Kenya and promote job creation.”

Currently, marijuana (or “bhang,” as it’s locally known) is illegal in Kenya—as it is in most of Africa.

Another provision of the draft legislation concerns “research and policy development.” Okoth wants the country to conduct studies on the medical, industrial, textile and recreational applications of cannabis. And that research would have a “focus on the preservation of intellectual property rights for Kenyan research and natural heritage, knowledge, and our indigenous plant assets,” according to the letter.

“It’s high time Kenya dealt with the question of marijuana like we do for tobacco, miraa, and alcohol,” Okoth wrote on Facebook.

“Legalize, regulate, tax. Protect children, eliminate drug cartels, reduce cost of keeping petty offenders in jail. Promote research for medical purposes and protect our indigenous knowledge and plants before foreign companies steal and patent it all.”

Okoth’s push for legalization in Kenya comes days after South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that individuals can grow and use marijuana for personal purposes. The court determined that prohibition violated a person’s right to privacy, effectively legalizing cannabis in the country.

It’ll take a while for Okoth’s bill to move forward. The legislation will need cabinet approval, then it must be published so that all interested parties can review the proposal before it enters into parliamentary debates. Whether Okoth’s fellow lawmakers will embrace the legislation is yet to be seen.

Don’t Legalize Marijuana, UN Drug Enforcement Board Warns Countries

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Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Bill, Making History In US Territory

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With a governor’s signature on Friday, the latest place to legalize marijuana in the U.S. isn’t a state. It’s the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)—a tiny Pacific territory with a population of just over 50,000.

Under the new law signed by Gov. Ralph Torres (R), adults over 21 years of age will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as infused products and extracts. Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges. Home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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