[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…]
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) wrote Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge today asking her to use executive discretion to not enforce rules against marijuana use in federally assisted housing in compliance with the marijuana laws of the state where the property is located.
“Individuals should not be denied admission to or fear eviction from federally assisted housing simply for treating their medical conditions or using a substance legal under state law,” Norton said. “Increasingly, Americans are changing their views on marijuana. Marijuana is legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and nobody should fear being thrown out of their home for using a product legalized by their state.”
Norton is the sponsor of the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act of 2021, which would permit the use of marijuana in federally assisted housing in compliance with the marijuana laws of the state where the property is located.
The letter follows:
May 25, 2021
The Honorable Marcia Fudge
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street SW
Washington, DC 20410
Dear Secretary Fudge:
I request that you use executive discretion to not enforce rules against marijuana use and possession in federally assisted housing, including public housing and Section 8 housing, in compliance with the marijuana laws of the state where the property is located.
Individuals living in federally assisted housing should not be denied admission, or face eviction, for using a legal product. Adult use and/or medical marijuana is currently legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and over 90 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana. The users of drugs that are illegal under federal law, including marijuana, are prohibited from being admitted into federally assisted housing. Moreover, federal law allows landlords to evict residents of federally assisted housing for drug use.
The federal government has begun to change its approach to marijuana. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, which is derived from marijuana. Epidiolex is used to treat children who suffer from seizures. For the last several years, Congress has prohibited the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using federal funds to prohibit jurisdictions from implementing their medical marijuana laws. HUD, like DOJ, should not enforce federal marijuana laws where states have taken action to legalize marijuana.
Smoking marijuana in federally assisted housing should be treated in the same manner as smoking tobacco in federally assisted housing.
I ask that you respond in writing by June 21, 2021.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
The MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana federally, invests in communities disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.
“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. Our federal laws must keep up with this pace,” said Chairman Nadler. “I’m proud to reintroduce the MORE Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs. I want to thank my colleagues, Representatives Barbara Lee and Earl Blumenauer, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, as well Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee, Hakeem Jeffries, and Nydia Velázquez for their contributions to this legislation, and I look forward to our continued partnership as we work to get this legislation signed into law.”
“Last year, we saw more progress toward cannabis legalization than ever before. This has been driven by unprecedented reforms at the state level. Now, Congress must deal with the problems created by the failed federal policy of prohibition,” said Rep. Blumenauer, 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. The MORE Act will help address all of these problems and more.”
“During the last year, people across the country have seen how injustice impacts communities of color—from police brutality to the COVID-19 pandemic. The War on Drugs is no exception. We must deliver justice to those most impacted by America’s racist and discriminatory cannabis laws,” said Rep. Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. “I’m proud to be working alongside Chairman Nadler and my Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair, Congressman Blumenauer, to reintroduce the MORE Act, which includes my bill—the Marijuana Justice Act—to bring restorative justice to communities of color impacted most. This bill 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.”
“The MORE Act would not only decriminalize marijuana federally, but also take steps to address the harmful impacts of federal prohibition, particularly on communities of color,” said Rep. Jackson Lee, Chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. “We need to pass the MORE Act as an important component of a broader effort to reform our drug laws, which disproportionately harm racial minorities and fuel mass incarceration. That is why I am also working to advance additional legislation to achieve comprehensive reform of our criminal justice system.”
“The failed war on drugs began almost fifty years ago when Richard Nixon declared drug abuse public enemy number one,” said Rep. Jeffries. “Since then, marijuana use has been socially accepted behavior in some neighborhoods and criminal conduct in others. Too often, the dividing line between these neighborhoods has been race. The MORE Act will help right these wrongs and bring to life the principle of liberty and justice for all.”
“For too long, our communities of color have been over-policed by racially biased practices that have led to a disproportionate amount of unjust arrests for low-level marijuana possession,” said Rep. Velázquez. “I am proud to co-sponsor the MORE Act because it will restore justice to our most marginalized communities, and it will boost our economy.”
Following efforts led by states across the nation, the MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level. The bill also aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. The MORE Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.
- Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
- Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
- Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
- The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
- The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
- The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
- Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
- Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
- Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
- Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
The MORE Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress, ACLU, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NORML, Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
In the 116th Congress, Chairman Nadler led the House of Representatives in passing the MORE Act by a bipartisan vote of 228 to 164.
To view the text of the MORE Act, click here.
FLORIDA: AFC Gamma, Inc. announced it has provided a credit facility of $22 million to Justice Cannabis Co., a Chicago-based multi-state operator with licenses in eight states. The credit facility is designed to provide Justice Cannabis Co. with the capital necessary to purchase and complete the build out of its 72,000 square foot cultivation and processing facility, along with the buildout of a dispensary, both in Ewing, New Jersey.
“We are pleased to support Justice Cannabis Co. as it continues to expand its operations in New Jersey,” said Leonard M. Tannenbaum, AFC’s Chief Executive Officer. “With adult use marijuana recently legalized in the state, we believe New Jersey will have favorable supply and demand dynamics for years to come and we are excited to be working with Justice Cannabis Co. in order to fully capitalize on this growing market.”
Jon Loevy, Justice Cannabis Co.’s Founder, added, “As we continue building on our presence in this highly attractive cannabis market, we are very excited to have the support and partnership of AFC. AFC has proven investment expertise in the cannabis space and provided us with an institutionally minded financing solution that supports our specific needs. We look forward to continuing to work with AFC to achieve our objectives.”
AFC will hold the entire $22 million of the credit facility, which consists of a first-lien term loan. The loan is secured by first-lien mortgages on Justice Cannabis Co.’s wholly owned real estate properties in New Jersey and other commercial-security interests. AFC Management, LLC served as Lead Arranger and Administrative Agent for the transaction.
New Jersey Cannabis Snapshot
New Jersey legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2010, with sales launching in 2019. Adult use marijuana was legalized in 2021. By 2024, the state expects to achieve sales of between $850 million and $950 million, with significant opportunities to exceed this range, depending on licensing details which will be developed over time.
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