Senators Booker, Wyden, Schumer Joint Statement on Cannabis Reform Legislation

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued the following joint statement regarding comprehensive cannabis reform legislation in the 117th Congress:

“The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color. Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country. But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs.

“We are committed to working together to put forward and advance comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that will not only turn the page on this sad chapter in American history, but also undo the devastating consequences of these discriminatory policies. The Senate will make consideration of these reforms a priority.

“In the early part of this year, we will release a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform to ensure restorative justice, protect public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations. Getting input from stakeholder groups will be an important part of developing this critical legislation.”

Merkley Cosponsors Landmark Bill To End Federal Prohibition Of Marijuana

Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color, low-income communities

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley has announced his cosponsorship of a landmark bill to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level.

Merkley has been a leader within in the Senate on several marijuana-related issues, spearheading bipartisan efforts to enable banks to serve legal cannabis businesses so they don’t have to operate in all cash, and to empower VA doctors to advise veterans on marijuana use in medical marijuana states. In 2014, he was the first U.S. Senator to support legalizing recreational marijuana.

“More than half of the United States has enacted legislation allowing for either medical or adult-use of cannabis, yet federal law remains in conflict,” said Senator Merkley. “This creates significant problems, not only with the prosecution of nonviolent cannabis crimes — which disproportionately hurts people of color — but also with lack of banking services for legally operating businesses. As long as financial institutions aren’t able to service cannabis enterprises, these businesses are forced to operate in an all-cash environment that’s unsafe and lacks accountability. This bill would place cannabis legalization in the hands of states — exactly where it should be.”

“I’m thrilled that Senator Merkley is joining our effort to make our criminal justice system more consistent with the words inscribed above our Supreme Court – equal justice under the law. The War on Drugs has been a war on people – and most often people of color and low-income individuals,” said Senator Booker. “I have seen firsthand the ways these policies have harmed neighborhoods, and I know that far too many innocent people in low-income communities and communities of color are having their futures destroyed by the disproportionate enforcement of these laws. It’s time for us to abandon the destructive federal prohibition of marijuana and focus our energy on righting the wrongs of the War on Drugs and prioritizing public safety and human potential.”

Merkley is the fifth Senator to cosponsor the Senate bill, along with Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In addition to these cosponsors, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives earlier this year that has 35 cosponsors.

In addition to removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, the bill would incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color. The bill is retroactive and would apply to those already serving time behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge’s review of marijuana sentences.

Specifically, the Marijuana Justice Act will:

  • Remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances, making it legal at the federal level;
  • Incentivize states through federal funds to change their marijuana laws if marijuana in the state is illegal and the state disproportionately arrests or incarcerates low-income individuals or people of color for marijuana-related offenses;
  • Automatically expunge federal marijuana use and possession crimes;
  • Allow an individual currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana use or possession crimes to petition a court for a resentencing;
  • Create a community reinvestment fund to reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs and allow those funds to be invested in the following programs:
    • Job training;
    • Reentry services;
    • Expenses related to the expungement of convictions;
    • Public libraries;
    • Community centers;
    • Programs and opportunities dedicated to youth; and
    • Health education.

Open Letter To Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Editorial by David Rheins, Founder/Executive Director of the Marijuana Business Association (MJBA) and publisher of the MJ News Network.

 

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

Speaking on behalf of the tens of thousands of legal cannabis businesses, and the more than 150,000 workers employed in the legal cannabis industry, we ask you to rethink your decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum.  Cannabis Prohibition has been a costly-disaster — for the country at large, and to millions of Americans who have been arrested, imprisoned, lost jobs and scholarships, all for the use or possession of small amounts of a plant.  We ask that you end this failed policy, and join the majority of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum who recognize is time to move beyond the failed policies of America’s War on Drugs.

In the five years since the voters of Colorado and Washington voted in adult-use cannabis, we have witnessed the birth of a responsible, professional industry that serves millions of adult customers in a safe and compliant manner.  Working effectively with state regulators, the legal cannabis industry is growing responsibly, and building the foundations of a scaleable, profitable industry — one that is already generating hundreds of millions in new state tax revenues, creating jobs and economic vitality in once-depressed communities.

The legal cannabis industry is led by socially-responsible business leaders who share your concern about the opioid crisis.  Under legalization, cannabis products are carefully inspected, tested, packaged and sold under strict State supervision.   Licensed retail establishments are required to maintain rigorous security and compliance technology, and customers are carded, oftentimes twice, to ensure no illegal sales to minors happens.

Our legal industry — which represents the fastest growing segment of our economy — operates at a severe disadvantages.  As a result of being considered a Schedule 1 drug, legal state businesses are unable to secure loans or commercial credit, are banned from working with many banks, and pay penalizing fees, surcharges and taxes.

In the past five years, the legal cannabis industry has been encouraged by the support of enlightened politicians from both parties who seek to move beyond prohibition. We thank folks like Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, along with Senator Cory Booker, Senator Rand Paul and backers of the CARERS Act for their fine work.  It is a start, but there is much work to be done to unravel the hairball of failed policy that 80 years of prohibition has woven.  

Attorney General Sessions, please rethink your decision and join us — we seek a partner in the Federal Government, not an adversary — as together we work to redefine a post-prohibition America.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

David Rheins