[Pages S4669-S4672] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS By Mr. BOOKER: S. 1689. A bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marihuana, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary. Mr. BOOKER. Madam President, I rise to talk about the Marijuana Justice Act--a bill I introduced today that would end the Federal prohibition on marijuana and start to end the War on Drugs. For far too long we have approached drug use and addiction as something we can jail ourselves out of. It is beyond clear that approach has failed. It is time we start to address the persistent and systemic racial bias that has plagued our criminal justice system and adopt policies that will move us forward, not backward. It is time to de-schedule marijuana. Since 2001, arrests for marijuana have increased across the Country and now account for over 50 percent of all drug arrests in the United States. The ACLU conducted a thorough study of over 8 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010. It found that 88 percent of those were for marijuana possession. Alarmingly, the study also found that African Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white peers, even though they use marijuana at similar rates. Over the last five years, States have begun to legalize marijuana in an effort to push back on the failed War on Drugs and combat the illicit drug market. Currently, eight States and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana and more States are taking up measures to follow suit. We know from the experiences of States that have already legalized marijuana that we will gain far more than we lose--these States have seen increased revenues and decreased rates of serious crime, and a reallocation of resources toward more productive uses. In Colorado, arrest rates have decreased and State revenues have increased. Washington saw a 10 percent decrease in violent crime over the three-year period following legalization. However, the Federal government still treats marijuana as an illegal substance. It is time for the Federal government to end the Federal prohibition of marijuana. Today, I introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, thereby ending the Federal prohibition. The bill would also automatically expunge records for people who were convicted of Federal marijuana use and possession offenses. We must help people with criminal records get back up on their feet and obtain jobs, and expunging their records is an important step in that process. The legislation would allow individuals currently serving time in Federal prison for marijuana offenses to petition a court for a resentencing. One of the greatest tragedies from the Fair Sentencing Act was that it did not provide retroactive relief to individuals serving time under the old crack and powder cocaine sentencing laws. The Marijuana Justice Act would allow people currently serving time for a marijuana offense to seek immediate relief. The bill would also use Federal funds to encourage States where marijuana is illegal to legalize the drug if they disproportionately arrest or incarcerate low income individuals or people [[Page S4670]] of color. Too often drug laws are enforced disproportionately against minorities and the poor. This is unacceptable and belies our values. Finally, the Marijuana Justice Act would establish a community reinvestment fund, which would invest money in communities most affected by the War on Drugs. Building new libraries, supporting job training, and investing in community centers will improve public safety and is the right thing to do after decades of failed drug policies. The Marijuana Justice Act is a serious step in acknowledging, that after 40 years, it is time to end the War on Drugs. It is time to stop our backward thinking, which has only led to backward results. It is time to lead with our hearts, our heads, and with policy that actually works. ______
Search Results for: the Marijuana Justice Act
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Justice Department is drafting legal guidance to help clarify how the banking industry can do business with newly legal marijuana businesses in states such as Colorado, according to people familiar with the matter.
The planned legal memo won’t draw clear lines about what banks can and can’t do, but will instead emphasize that prosecutors’ priorities are to go after businesses that use local, retail marijuana sales as part of a larger criminal activity, such as diverting pot to states where it is still illegal, use the proceeds of such sales to fund illegal activity, or use the pot business as cover for other illegal activity, according to a person familiar with the draft. The person cautioned the language of the document is still being revised and could take weeks or months until it is finalized. [Read more…]
COLORADO: With the Justice Department announcing it will step aside, the future of retail marijuana in Colorado rests on how well it’s regulated. [Read more…]
CBO projections show that cannabis reform will lead to huge growth in revenue, cuts to federal prison spending, and more.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Following a historic vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to end the federal prohibition on cannabis last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, released a new report today detailing vast economic benefits to the legislation.
Among other things, the agency found that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would increase revenues by about $13.7 billion, cut federal prison spending by $1 billion, and reduce time served in federal prison among existing and future inmates by 73,000 person-years.
U.S. Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and a key sponsor of the MORE Act, lauded these findings today on the House floor.
“It was sad that my Republican colleagues were unable to understand why we voted to reform our failed prohibition of cannabis. They don’t care about honoring the will of the people and they are unable to grasp the enormity of the racial injustice and damage by selective enforcement against young Black and Brown Americans,” Blumenauer said. “But the CBO score may have some other reasons for them. It shows that the MORE Act would reduce 73,000 person-years of prison time. It would increase revenues by $13.7 billion. It would provide $3 billion for job training and legal aid to people harmed by the war on drugs. While doing all of this, it would reduce the deficit by $7.344 billion.”
If the MORE Act becomes law, the CBO report also estimates that from 2021 – 2030, the U.S. Department of Justice would spend $3 billion from the MORE Act’s Opportunity Trust Fund to provide job training, legal aid, and other services to people harmed by the “War on Drugs.” During this same period, the legislation would lead to $2.7 billion in Small Business Association funding for state and local grants to make loans to cannabis businesses and help governments develop cannabis-licensing rules.
“Even if you don’t care about reducing the damage to Black and Brown Americans, or honoring the will of the people, the economics make it clear,” Blumenauer continued. “Once again, the people are right, and the people deserve strong Congressional support.”
The report released today by the CBO can be found here.
Full text of the MORE Act can be found here.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the House passed H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, while taking long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices of the criminalization of marijuana and the vastly disproportionate impact it has had on communities of color:
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued the following statement in support of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2020:
“Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have introduced H.R. 3884, the ‘Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020,’ or the ‘MORE Act of 2020.’
“This long overdue legislation would reverse the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and would take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly on communities of color.
“The MORE Act would make three important changes to federal law:
(1) remove marijuana, or cannabis, from the list of federally controlled substances;
(2) authorize the provision of resources, funded by an excise tax on marijuana, to address the needs of communities that have been seriously impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of communities of color in the burgeoning cannabis market; and
(3) provide for the expungement of Federal marijuana convictions and arrests.
“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust.
“This issue is not new to Congress. There have been many Members who have introduced bills upon which provisions in this bill are based. For instance, Representative Barbara Lee has sponsored bills that are the foundation of key provisions of the MORE Act, and I thank her for her longstanding leadership on this issue. Representative Earl Blumenauer has also been an indefatigable advocate and has supported everything we have done to get to where we are today. I thank him, as well.
“Federal action on this issue would follow the growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable. Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.
“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.
“Marijuana is one of the oldest agricultural commodities not grown for food, and it has been used medicinally all over the world since at least 2700 B.C., but its criminalization is a relatively recent phenomenon.
“The use of marijuana, which most likely originated in Asia, later spread to Europe, and made its way to the Americas when the Jamestown settlers brought it with them across the Atlantic. The cannabis plant has been widely grown in the United States and was used as a component in fabrics during the middle of the 19th century. During that time period, cannabis was also widely used as a treatment for a multitude of ailments, including muscle spasms, headaches, cramps, asthma, and diabetes.
“It was only in the early part of the 20th century that marijuana began to be criminalized in the United States—mainly because of misinformation and hysteria, based at least in part on racially-biased stereotypes connecting marijuana use and people of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos. In 1970, when President Nixon announced the War on Drugs and signed the Controlled Substances Act into law, the federal government placed marijuana on Schedule I, the most restrictive schedule that is attached to the most serious criminal penalties, where—unfairly and unjustifiably—it has remained ever since.
“As a consequence of this decision, thousands of individuals—overwhelmingly people of color—have been subjected, by the federal government, to unjust prison sentences for marijuana offenses. It is time for this manifest injustice to end. The MORE Act would remove marijuana from Schedule I and the Controlled Substances Act altogether, thereby decriminalizing it at the Federal level.
“This is only fair, particularly because the same racial animus motivating the enactment of marijuana laws also led to racially disproportionate enforcement of such laws, which has had a substantial, negative impact on communities of color. In fact, nationwide, the communities that have been most harmed by marijuana enforcement are benefitting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace.
“The MORE Act would address some of these negative impacts, by establishing an Opportunity Trust Fund within the Department of Treasury to fund programs within the Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration to empower communities of color and those adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. These programs would provide services to individuals, including job training, reentry services and substance use disorder services; provide funds for loans to assist small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and provide resources for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
“The collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana possession—and even sometimes for a mere arrest—can be devastating. For those saddled with a criminal conviction, it can be difficult or impossible to vote, to obtain educational loans, to get a job, to maintain a professional license, to secure housing, to receive government assistance, or even to adopt a child.
“These exclusions create an often-permanent second-class status for millions of Americans. This is unacceptable and counterproductive, especially in light of the disproportionate impact that enforcement of marijuana laws has had on communities of color. The MORE Act recognizes this injustice and addresses these harmful effects by expunging and sealing federal convictions and arrests for marijuana offenses.
“It is not surprising that over the past two decades, public support for legalizing marijuana has surged. In the most recent Pew Research Center poll—which was released at the end of 2019—67 percent of Americans now back marijuana legalization, up from 62 percent in Pew’s 2018 poll. And just this November, there were ballot measures pertaining to marijuana in several states; they were all approved by voters. Indeed, the states have led the way—and continue to lead the way—on marijuana, but our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. We need to catch up because the public supports reform and because it is the right thing to do.
“In my view, applying criminal penalties, with their attendant collateral consequences for marijuana offenses is unjust and harmful to our society. The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill today.”
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Leader McCarthy, and Whip Scalise:
On behalf of the many of Americans whose views and values our organizations represent, we respectfully urge you to support efforts to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. While we oppose many aspects of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, we support its provision to de-schedule cannabis, which would restore the right to decide how to regulate the substance to the people and their state representatives. The undersigned organizations agree that this action is an important step toward undoing the harms caused by the misguided drug war and protecting our nation’s principle of federalism.
In the past election, voters in five states authorized medical cannabis use, recreational use, or both. In fact, every cannabis-legalization ballot measure throughout the country was approved by voters, bringing the total number of states that have legalized medical cannabis to 35 plus the District of Columbia and the number of states that have legalized recreational cannabis use for adults to 15, along with the District. In fact, all but two states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis in some form, properly adapting state policies to reflect the needs and opinions of their constituents. Yet, such responsive governance is hampered by the fact cannabis remains federally prohibited.
Congress has recognized the need to resolve this conflict for many years. Amendments to prevent federal interference in state cannabis regulation enjoy a long history of support among both House Republicans and Democrats. These measures can give states some flexibility to set policies in accordance with the will of their people. But the dual legal status of cannabis has created confusion and put the welfare of many citizens and businesses in jeopardy.
The federal prohibition has excluded small cannabis businesses from many of the financial and legal services or benefits afforded to other industries. The conflict also creates hazards for consumers of legal cannabis products, extending to issues of employment, housing, property rights, firearms purchasing, and civil asset forfeiture, among others. For example, patients who wish to participate in their state’s legal medical marijuana program must choose between their medicine and owning a gun, because the Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits anyone who uses controlled substances from possessing guns or ammunition. Only Congress can resolve this conflict and there is strong, bipartisan public support for such action.
According to a November 2020 Gallup poll, 68 percent of all Americans believe the use of marijuana should be made legal, including 52 percent of Republican voters. There is even greater support for allowing states to make the decision without federal interference. A 2017 CBS News Poll found that 64 percent of Republican voters, 76 percent of Democrats, and 72 percent of independents opposed federal attempts to stop states from legalizing cannabis.
The undersigned organizations vary in our opinions on the specifics of cannabis legalization, but we are in strong accord when it comes to whether the federal or state governments should have the power to make such decisions. Our Constitution limits federal power and leaves most issues of law enforcement to the individual states for good reason. We are a nation of diverse backgrounds, opinions, and values. State authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their populace and must be free to decide how best to protect public health and safety and direct limited resources toward those priorities. What works for California may not be appropriate for Utah and vice versa. The federal government need not endorse one approach or another nor condone cannabis use; it needs only to respect the states’ authority to choose how best to regulate cannabis.
As a coalition of groups and individuals supporting free market solutions and the protection of essential constitutional principles, we strongly urge you to respect our nation’s federalist structure and support the MORE Act’s provision to de-schedule cannabis.
Competitive Enterprise Institute
President, Institute for Liberty
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties Policy
R Street Institute
NEW JERSEY: Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has issued additional guidance to prosecutors concerning the prosecution of low-level marijuana cases, supplementing his August 29, 2018 and November 4, 2020 guidance.
Attorney General Grewal directed all New Jersey municipal, county, and state prosecutors to adjourn, until at least January 25, 2021, any juvenile or adult case solely involving the following marijuana possession-related offenses:
- possession of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(a)(3);
- possession of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(a)(4);
- being under the influence of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(c);
- failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana or hashish in violation of N.J.S. 2C:35-10(d);
- use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia under N.J.S. 2C:36-2 involving only marijuana or hashish;
- possession of a controlled dangerous substance while operating a motor vehicle in violation of N.J.S. 39:4-49.1 involving only marijuana or hashish; and
- any disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense subject to conditional discharge pursuant to N.J.S. 2C:36A-1 involving only marijuana or hashish.
For cases involving the above-enumerated charges as well as other offenses, the Attorney General directed prosecutors to use their discretion to either postpone the case in its entirety or seek dismissal, without prejudice, of the marijuana possession-related charge(s) and proceed with prosecution of the remaining charges. Notably, today’s guidance does not affect the prosecution of cases charging distribution of marijuana or possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
“Fairness demands that we suspend prosecution of marijuana possession-related cases while we await direction from the Legislature on the parameters for decriminalization of marijuana and legalization of regulated adult-use cannabis,” said Attorney General Grewal. “It simply does not make sense or serve justice to proceed with prosecutions on charges that may be foreclosed soon through legislative action.”
Previously, on November 4th, the Attorney General issued guidance to law enforcement emphasizing that they have broad discretion in handling low-level marijuana offenses, and encouraging them to exercise that discretion in light of anticipated legislative action that may decriminalize marijuana.
Attorney General Grewal reiterated that more comprehensive guidance, including direction on handling previously adjudicated matters, will follow when the Legislature provides details of the framework for marijuana decriminalization and the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
Guidance for Marijuana Possession Cases Pending in Municipal and Superior Courts: click here.
Guidance Regarding Municipal Prosecutors’ Discretion in Prosecuting Marijuana and Other Criminal Offenses, August 29, 2018: click here.
Interim Guidance on the Constitutional Amendment Legalizing Cannabis, November 4, 2020: click here.
Community-driven report reflects recommendations of the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group
VIRGINIA: Governor Ralph Northam today released the Administration’s report on the impact of legalizing adult-use marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The report is the final product of the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group, and it results from a diverse, stakeholder-driven process that involved community leaders, healthcare professionals, policy experts, and government officials. This months-long effort was a key part of marijuana decriminalization legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, and follows Governor Northam’s recent announcement that he intends to advance marijuana legalization in Virginia.
“We will advance new laws to make sure that our Commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia has studied the experience of other states and this report lays out a path forward that leads with social equity, public health, and public safety.”
The comprehensive report includes nearly 400 pages of meeting minutes and outlines various aspects of marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth, including taxation, banking, criminal justice, licensing and regulation, and consumer safety. It also provides additional details on the five key principles that Governor Northam wants to see in any final legalization bill:
- Social equity, racial equity, and economic equity. Marijuana prohibition historically has been based in discrimination, and criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities. Legislation should focus on undoing these harms by including initiatives such as social equity license programs, access to capital, community reinvestment, and sealing or expunging records of past marijuana-related convictions.
- Public health. Legislation should include substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities.
- Protections for young people. As a pediatrician, Governor Northam will require any legislation include protections for Virginia’s youth, including age limits, mandatory ID checks, and education campaigns.
- Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. Legislation should be aligned with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act prohibiting indoor tobacco use, which Governor Northam championed as a state Senator.
- Data collection. Legislation should ensure Virginia collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health, and equity.
The Virginia Marijuana Work Group consulted with dozens of subject matter experts in compiling its recommendations, including organizations focused on ensuring social and racial equity, such as the Minority Cannabis Business Association, NoLef Turns, and Decriminalize Virginia. Health experts, including public health policy consultants and practicing physicians were extensively involved, and the team worked closely with government officials from states that have already legalized marijuana, such as Washington, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
The Work Group was led by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Health and Human Resources, and Public Safety and Homeland Security. The group held a total of 15 public meetings between July and October 2020.
NORTH CAROLINA: Attorney General Josh Stein announced that the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, convened by Gov. Roy Cooper and co-chaired by Justice Anita Earls and the attorney general, adopted recommendations related to marijuana today. Those include a recommendation to decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts and to further study potential legalization of marijuana possession, cultivation, and sale.
“You cannot talk about improving racial equity in our criminal justice system without talking about marijuana,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “White and Black North Carolinians use marijuana at similar rates, yet Black people are disproportionately arrested and sentenced. Additionally, it is time for North Carolina to start having real conversations about a safe, measured, public health approach to potentially legalizing marijuana.”
“Data made available to the Task Force shows that 63 percent of the more than 10,000 convictions for simple possession of marijuana last year in North Carolina are people of color even though they are only 30 percent of the population and research documents that marijuana use is at roughly equal percentages among Black and white populations,” said Justice Anita Earls. “This recommendation is intended to help alleviate racial disparities in North Carolina’s criminal justice system.”
Marijuana In NC Today
Right now, possession of up to ½ ounce of marijuana is a class 3 misdemeanor, not subject to imprisonment but subject to a fine up to $200. In 2019, there were 31,287 charges and 8,520 convictions for this offense; 61 percent of those convicted were nonwhite.
Possession of more than ½ ounce up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana is a class 1 misdemeanor, subject to up to 45 days imprisonment and a $200 fine. In 2019, there were 3,422 charges and 1,909 convictions for this offense; 70 percent of those convicted were nonwhite.
- The Task Force recommends legislation to decriminalize the possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by making such possession a civil offense and expunge past convictions through an automatic process.
- The Task Force further recommends that North Carolina convene a Task Force of stakeholders, free from conflict of interest, to study the pros and cons and options for legalization of possession, cultivation and/or sale, including government or not for profit monopoly options. The study should be guided by a public safety, public health, and racial equity framework.
- Improve drug enforcement data collection and reporting by:
- Requiring every law enforcement agency to participate fully in the NIBRS system
- Requiring every law enforcement agency to publish drug enforcement data on its department website in easy searchable fashion, including number of arrests and citations by drug, quantity, race, gender, and reason for search. This may necessitate providing additional resources to law enforcement agencies, especially smaller agencies.
- Deemphasize (or make the lowest drug law enforcement priority) felony drug possession arrests for trace quantities under .25 grams in non-ABC permitted locations.
- Deemphasize (or make the lowest drug law enforcement priority) marijuana possession arrests in non-ABC permitted locations.
- Prosecutors should immediately deprioritize marijuana-related prosecution in non-ABC permitted locations.
Task Force Next Steps
The Task Force will release its full recommendations in a report to Gov. Roy Cooper on Dec. 15, 2020. That date has been extended from Dec. 1 due to difficulty holding meetings and conducting work as a result of the pandemic. To view today’s public meeting, please visit the North Carolina Department of Justice’s YouTube channel. Information on previous recommendations and other Task Force action is available at https://ncdoj.gov/trec/.