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Federal Marijuana Prohibition Would End Under New Bill

The historic bill would completely remove Cannabis from the list of Controlled Substances


Today at the nation’s Capitol, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler introduced a historic federal marijuana legalization bill. If enacted, the act would end the federal prohibition of Cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act and ending criminal penalties under federal law. (And we told you this was coming.)

Chairman Nadler introduced the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act of 2021, better known as The MORE Act. The Act repeals the long-standing federal prohibition of Cannabis. It thereby ends the existing state/federal conflict in Cannabis policies, providing state governments with greater authority to regulate marijuana-related activities.

In addition to federally decriminalizing and descheduling cannabis, the MORE Act would:
1. Require federal courts to expunge prior cannabis-related convictions and provide for resentencing;
2. Provide grants and funding to communities most harmed by the war on Cannabis;
3. Lift barriers to licensing and employment in the Cannabis industry;
4. Block federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to marijuana use;
5. Protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over Cannabis; and
6. Allow VA physicians to recommend medical marijuana to veterans.

Most Americans Support Legalization

The bill passed the House of Representatives last year, but it did not advance in the Senate. Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a conservative Republican from Kentucky, had consigned the bill to his infamous legislative graveyard. McConnell refused to allow his colleagues to even vote on it.

According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 68% of Americans support cannabis legalization. To date, 18 states have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over. Notably, more than 43% of Americans now live in a jurisdiction with legal cannabis.

Nadler introduced the bill along with Cannabis Caucus co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer and Barbara Lee, Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, and Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez.

‘The tablet is set’

“Since I introduced the MORE Act last Congress, numerous states across the nation, including my home state of New York, have moved to legalize marijuana,” said Nadler. “Our federal laws must keep up with this pace.”

“During the last year, people across the country have seen how injustice impacts communities of color—from police brutality to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). “The War on Drugs is no exception. We must deliver justice to those most impacted by America’s racist and discriminatory cannabis laws.”

“I’m proud to be working alongside Chairman Nadler and Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair, Congressman Blumenauer, to reintroduce the MORE Act, which includes my bill to bring restorative justice to communities of color impacted most—the Marijuana Justice Act,” Congresswoman Lee said. “The MORE Act will not only put an end to harmful federal cannabis policies that have ruined countless lives, it will seek to reverse the damage by providing true equity and opportunity for those looking to access this booming industry. We are on our way toward true justice.”

“Last year, we saw more progress toward cannabis legalization than ever before,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon). Now, Congress must deal with the problems created by the failed federal policy of prohibition.”Blumenauer, a longtime friend of marijuana, is founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“With a strong base of support in the House and in the Senate, the table is set. It’s past time that we stop federal interference with cannabis banking and research, as well as the terrible pattern of selective enforcement that has devastated communities of color,” Blumenauer said. “The MORE Act will help address all of these problems and more.”

‘The days of federal marijuana prohibition are numbered’

“When the MORE Act was approved by the House of Representatives in the previous session, Congress demonstrated in no uncertain terms that the days of federal marijuana prohibition are numbered,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.

“It’s clear that Americans overwhelmingly support ending cannabis prohibition,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Reintroducing the MORE Act is a powerful way to reorient negotiations around legalization that gives our entire nation the power to choose cannabis for medical and adult use, strengthens a blossoming industry that is creating jobs and fueling economic growth, and begins to rectify the harms of the racially motivated war on cannabis and its disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities through criminal justice reform and social equity initiatives. We endorse this bill and urge Congress to pass it.”

“Cannabis prohibition and its ensuing over-policing, unequal enforcement, and criminalization stripped millions of Black and Latinx people of their vote, access to education, employment, and housing, creating cycles of poverty and marginalization in their communities,” said Tahir Johnson, director of social equity and inclusion at MPP. “The MORE Act promises to address many of the harms caused by prohibition using an equity and justice-centered framework that allows the communities most harmed to access the health and economic benefits of the cannabis industry. This is the approach to legalization that our country needs.”

The bill text is here.

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