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Top Congressional Chairman Campaigns On Marijuana Legalization

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The chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee is campaigning on marijuana two days after he introduced a comprehensive legalization bill.

The reelection campaign for Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) sent out an email on Thursday touting his legislation and inviting people to sign a petition supporting the sentiment that the U.S. has a “moral responsibility” to end marijuana prohibition and to “directly challenge the structural racism at the heart of the drug war’s enforcement.”

The email starts by referencing Nadler’s questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who appeared before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to discuss his office’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s conduct.

Nadler said recipients “may have seen me on TV yesterday” at the hearing, “but I wanted to make sure you know about the other important work happening that isn’t breaking through on cable news.”

“This week, I introduced a marijuana legalization bill that directly challenges the structural racism so damaging to our country—becoming the first Judiciary Committee Chair in history to take this critical step,” the email continues.

Nadler and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, filed companion legalization bills on Tuesday. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would federally deschedule marijuana, allow cannabis businesses to access financial services, provide for resentencing and use tax revenue from marijuana sales to reinvest in communities that are disproportionately impacted by prohibition.

“My bill, the MORE Act, is the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced, and it’s backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups,” Nadler said. “The hysteria around marijuana is starting to lift as states across the country lead the way in reforming their marijuana laws. It is time that the US federal government follow suit.”

“Marijuana is a public health and personal freedom issue, not a criminal one. We can no longer afford the moral or financial costs of the War on Drugs. That is why the introduction of The MORE Act is a critical step toward creating just laws around marijuana.”

In his capacity as Judiciary chairman, which oversees drug and crime policy, Nadler is uniquely positioned to advance cannabis reform legislation in the House.

His panel held a historic hearing earlier this month to discuss the best path forward to end marijuana prohibition. Though the congressman’s bill hadn’t been introduced at that point, witnesses and several committee members emphasized that any plan to legalize cannabis at the federal level should include provisions that promote social equity in the industry and restorative justice for communities most harmed by the drug war.

“After marijuana policy has been lost in the wilderness of the Judiciary Committee led by Republican Bob Goodlatte, we now have a cannabis champion at the helm in Chairman Nadler,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “We look forward to working with the chairman to swiftly move The MORE Act forward after the August recess.”

Numerous legalization proposals have been introduced this Congress, most of which would federally deschedule marijuana. However, there’s debate among advocates about whether to pursue bolder options that include social justice-centered provisions or first aim to advance a more modest bipartisan bill that would simply allow states to set their own marijuana policies without running the risk of federal intervention and may stand a better chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate.

A newly formed coalition of drug reform and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU, released a list of legislative priorities for marijuana legislation this month that emphasizes the need for restorative justice.

Nadler’s email links to a petition to “support the MORE Act and critical reforms to marijuana laws.” Using online petitions has become a common tactic for politicians to build large email lists that they can then later fundraise from.

Read the full text of the Nadler’s campaign email on marijuana below:

Subject: You and I are going to challenge systemic racism and legalize marijuana

You may have seen me on TV yesterday questioning Robert Mueller and reminding the world that President Trump has been lying to us and the Special Counsel — but I wanted to make sure you know about the other important work happening that isn’t breaking through on cable news.

This week, I introduced a marijuana legalization bill that directly challenges the structural racism so damaging to our country — becoming the first Judiciary Committee Chair in history to take this critical step.

But we need your voice to make it clear that Americans stand with this legislation! Help us get 10,000 grassroots signatures in the next 24 hours to prove that it’s time for action.

America has a moral responsibility to pass my legislation to end the prohibition of marijuana and directly challenge the structural racism at the heart of the drug war’s enforcement.

My bill, the MORE Act, is the most comprehensive marijuana reform bill ever introduced, and it’s backed by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups.

Here’s what it does:

1. Provide much-needed relief to the communities that have been ravaged by the racist enforcement of marijuana prohibition
2. Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which decriminalizes it at the federal level and thereby enables states to set their own policies. This also will pave the way for more medical research.
3. The existing state-legal marijuana industry will no longer be barred from accessing financial services or standard tax treatment available to all legal businesses.
4. Veterans will have better access to medical marijuana because Veterans Administration doctors will no longer be in danger of facing federal prosecution for filling out state-legal medical recommendations.

In 1977, I cast my first vote as a freshman member of the State Assembly to decriminalize marijuana in my home state of New York. Since then, I have been committed to ending the criminalization of marijuana. Simply put, the criminalization of marijuana is a mistake and caused grave harm, disproportionately to those who are poor or people of color, and we must take action.

The hysteria around marijuana is starting to lift as states across the country lead the way in reforming their marijuana laws. It is time that the US federal government follow suit.

Marijuana is a public health and personal freedom issue, not a criminal one. We can no longer afford the moral or financial costs of the War on Drugs. That is why the introduction of The MORE Act is a critical step toward creating just laws around marijuana.

TAKE ACTION: Support the MORE Act and critical reforms to marijuana laws!

Yours in Reform,

Chairman Jerry Nadler

Federal Officials Give Hemp Legalization Update At Senate Hearing

 

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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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