A coalition of marijuana and civil rights reform groups sent a letter to House leadership on Tuesday, urging them to schedule a floor vote on a bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity this month.
The Marijuana Justice Coalition (MJC)—comprised of more than 20 advocacy organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, National Urban League, Human Rights Watch and more—says reform is long overdue and that further delaying the vote will mean continued incarceration of people over cannabis.
They’re specifically calling for a floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). The bill passed the full House in a historic vote last session, and it cleared the sponsor’s panel again in September but has not advanced since then.
“Given that nearly every minute one person in this country is arrested for a minor marijuana crime, the public deserves to know if members of the 117th Congress stand on the side of justice and against the outdated and cruel policy of prohibition and criminalization of marijuana,” the letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) states.
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“Mass criminalization and over-enforcement of drug law violations have devastated the social and economic fabrics of entire communities, while also tearing apart the lives of millions of individuals and families,” it continues. “And while Black, Latino, and Indigenous people have carried the brunt of marijuana criminalization, they have been shut out of the regulated marijuana marketplace due to these very same criminal records in addition to financial barriers to entry.”
Beside removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the MORE Act would also help reduce mass incarceration and remove financial barriers that have inhibited small businesses from participating in the industry, the groups said.
The letter also cited public opinion polling that shows the vast majority of Americans believe in ending federal marijuana prohibition.
“In short, the resounding shift in favor of marijuana reform demonstrates what we have been saying: marijuana justice is a winning issue and it is long past time for the federal government to catch up,” they wrote. “The time to end federal prohibition is long overdue. We urge you bring the MORE Act to the House floor in March.”
It’s time for a vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act to finally end the federal marijuana prohibition, address collateral consequences of federal marijuana criminalization, and take steps to ensure the legal marketplace is diverse & inclusive. https://t.co/mU2o7oBQlF
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) March 2, 2022
Other signatories on the letter include NORML, Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, BOWL PAC, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, MoveOn, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Veterans Cannabis Coalition.
Meanwhile, advocates are also closing following work in the Senate to produce a separate legalization bill that’s being drafted by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Schumer recently said that the goal is to file that legislation in April.
Advocates were encouraged when Schumer first disclosed details about his Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA), which he unveiled in draft form for public comment in July, but they’ve grown impatient with his repeated comments in the months since that a formal introduction was coming “soon.” Now he’s set a target timeline, and the leader also separately said in a meeting with activists that he expects committee hearings on the proposal shortly after it’s finally filed.
Separately, several Republican members of Congress introduced a bill in November to federally legalize and tax marijuana as an alternative to pending far-reaching Democratic-led reform proposals and scaled-down GOP cannabis descheduling legislation.
Read the MJC letter to House leadership on a marijuana legalization floor vote below:
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.