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Deschedule Marijuana, Says Coalition Involving AARP, Labor Unions And NAACP

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A coalition of major civil rights organizations, labor unions and other groups is calling on Congress to completely remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and divert revenue to communities that have been harmed by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition.

“Pass legislation de-scheduling marijuana with racial equity and justice reform components,” reads one recommendation in a letter sent this week by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights outlining priorities for the coalition in the 116th Congress that begins in January.

The group, which includes organizations such as AARP, AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers and League of Women Voters, wants lawmakers to “end federal prohibition in a way that acknowledges decades of harm faced by communities of color and low-income communities.”

It also stresses that bills to reform marijuana laws should “include reparative justice/reinvestment language for communities most impacted” by directing revenue their way.

“We believe that these goals can and should be met during the first session of the 116th Congress,” the letter says of the coalition’s priorities overall, which also touch on policy areas like education, employment, housing, health care and immigration.

Inclusion of the marijuana descheduling recommendation doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the individual groups in the Leadership Conference actively support it, but it does indicate that none of the major players opposed the measure strongly enough to fight for its exclusion from the joint letter.

Other members of the coalition include AFSCME, Anti-Defamation League, American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP, National Education Association, National Organization for Women, and National Urban League.

“It’s great that a prestigious organization like the Leadership Conference is taking this position not only on marijuana reform, but seeing it as a racial justice issue and pushing for reform through that lens,” Michael Collins, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which is also a member of the coalition, told Marijuana Moment.

“While the attached priorities do not reflect the full agenda of all of our member organizations, they do highlight the issues that are at the top of the coalition’s agenda,” the letter says.

The Leadership Conference, which was founded in 1950, includes more than 200 organizations altogether, with other members such as Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, People for the American Way, Service Employees International Union and UAW.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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