Chairman Nadler Statement In Support Of H.R. 3884, The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment And Expungement (MORE) Act Of 2020

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.”

CEI Leads Coalition Letter Supporting MORE Act Provision To De-Schedule Cannabis

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.

Sincerely,

Michelle Minton
Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Andrew Langer
President, Institute for Liberty

David Williams
President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Arthur Rizer
Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties Policy
R Street Institute

Meeting Announcement For H.R. 3884—Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment And Expungement Act of 2019

 

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  The Committee on Rules will meet on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 1:00 PM EST via Cisco Webex on the following measure:

  • H.R. 3884—Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 [MORE Act of 2020]

**PLEASE NOTE:

  • This proceeding will be streamed live on rules.house.gov. Information will be provided separately to Members on how to join via theCisco Webex platform.
  • Members intending to testify during this meeting should notify the Rules Committee of their interest in order to receive instructions on how to participate.

Congressman Blumenauer Statement On Cannabis Reform Legislation Vote

The MORE Act would end the failed federal cannabis prohibition and ensure restorative justice

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: U.S. Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, released this statement today, following the announcement that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act will be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives next week: 

“I’ve been working on this issue longer than any politician in America and can confidently say that the MORE Act is the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation in U.S. history. Our vote to pass it next week will come after people in five very different states reaffirmed the strong bipartisan support to reform the failed cannabis prohibition. National support for federal cannabis legalization is at an all-time high and almost 99% of Americans will soon live in states with some form of legal cannabis. Congress must capitalize on this momentum and do our part to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against communities of color.” 

The historic vote – which is expected next week – will mark the first time that the House or the Senate has ever voted as a full chamber on legislation to end the federal cannabis prohibition since it went into effect following the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

In addition to decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, the MORE Act would also expunge federal marijuana convictions and reinvest in communities most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.     

Steny H. Hoyer, House Majority Leader ‘Dear Colleague’ Update On September Floor Schedule

 Confirms Legalization On Docket For Third Week Of September

August 31, 2020

Dear Colleague:

On September 8, the House will return for its Committee Work Period, to be followed on September 14 with a busy legislative work period.  I want to thank all of you for your efforts during the August District Work Period, which involved engaging closely with constituents, community leaders, and civic organizations working hard to address the COVID-19 pandemic and other pressing national challenges.  It also involved a brief return last weekend to Washington to pass the Delivering for America Act, which would end President Trump’s sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service, a vital service to American communities and to our democracy.

While we have all been waiting for the Senate to take action on the Heroes Act, it appears that the Republicans who control that chamber are not in a hurry to do their jobs and pass an emergency assistance package to help American workers and their families get through this economic and public health crisis.  If that changes, the House will return immediately to ensure that emergency assistance is delayed no further.  I will, as stated previously, provide twenty-four hours’ notice before any Floor action. The American people need this assistance, and this will continue to be our priority in September.

Looking ahead to the week of September 14, the House will consider the following pieces of legislation on the Floor.  First, we will take up a number of bills from the Education and Labor Committee, including: Rep. Fudge’s Strength in Diversity Act, Chairman Scott’s Equity and Inclusion in Education Act, and Chairman Nadler’s Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act.  All of these would further Democrats’ agenda of ensuring that American workers can succeed in our economy regardless of their race, sex, or background.  They are based on the premise that everyone ought to have a fair and equal chance to make it in America.  In addition, the House will also consider a bipartisan resolution offered by Rep. Meng condemning all forms of anti-Asian bias and bigotry related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following week, the House will take up Chairman Nadler’s MORE Act to help restore justice to millions by decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records of nonviolent federal cannabis convictions.  Additionally, the House will consider a package of legislation reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee to invest in energy innovation and clean energy development.  These bills have broad support from across the aisle and from business and environmental groups, who together recognize that Congress must lead in promoting a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that drives innovation and helps us create good jobs for American workers.  The House may also take up legislation to reauthorize our intelligence agencies and ensure that they can do their jobs free from political interference and with the latest tools to protect against foreign threats while safeguarding Americans’ civil rights.

By September 30th, Congress must complete our work on appropriations and other expiring items, such as flood insurance and surface transportation.  In July, the Democratic-led House passed legislation to fund nearly all of the government, yet to date the Senate has not held even a single markup of an appropriations bill.  At this rate, it is likely that we will have to pass a continuing resolution to keep government open past the end of this fiscal year.  While that is not ideal, the House will do its job to avert a shutdown that would only further damage our economy.

Throughout September, the Democratic-led House will show the American people what responsible governance looks like, doing its job to legislate For the People.  I thank you in advance for your hard work and contributions, and I look forward to seeing you either virtually or in person when the House returns to session.

Sincerely,

STENY H. HOYER
House Majority Leader

125 Groups Urge Congressional Action On The MORE Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, and 123 other national and state organizations today called on House Leadership to swiftly advance the bipartisan Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) to the House floor when Congress returns in September. The MORE Act, the most comprehensive marijuana justice legislation to be considered in Congress, is needed now more than ever to alleviate economic hardship caused by COVID-19 and meet the calls for justice reform echoing all across America.

“In November 2019, the House Judiciary Committee made history when it advanced the MORE Act, becoming the first congressional body to vote favorably for a marijuana de-scheduling bill. Since that time, the circumstances of 2020 have made the failed War on Drugs even more untenable and amplified the voices of those demanding transformation in our criminal legal system. In the face of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and a growing national dialogue on unjust law enforcement practices, marijuana reform as a modest first step at chipping away at the War on Drugs is more relevant and more pressing than ever before. The MORE Act remains the most effective and equitable way forward,” the groups said in the letter.

The MORE Act, a sweeping marijuana measure that addresses criminal justice reform, racial justice, and equity, would:

  • Remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policy, expanding research opportunities, and broadening access to medical marijuana to underserved populations such as veterans.
  • Emphasize reparative justice, establishing social equity programs that acknowledge those who have been most impacted under criminalization by building community infrastructure and diversifying the regulated marijuana marketplace.
  • Provide for the expungement and re-sentencing of marijuana offenses.
  • Prevent the government from denying an individual federal benefits, student financial aid, or security clearances needed to obtain government jobs because of marijuana use.
  • Protect non-citizens from immigration consequences due to marijuana activity, including non-citizens working in state-legal marijuana marketplaces.

The MORE Act is supported by the Marijuana Justice Coalition as well 125 national and state organizations.

The signatories and letter are available here.