News

Rep. Gabbard Introduces Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition

July 24, 2019, 8:00 AM HST
* Updated July 24, 5:09 PM
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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) joined House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (NY-10) on July 23, 2019, in introducing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. This comprehensive bill addresses the decriminalization of marijuana as well as criminal justice issues that have disproportionately impacted underserved communities as part of America’s War on Drugs.

“Millions of Americans have fallen victim to the failed War on Drugs, tearing families apart, disproportionately harming minority communities, and overcrowding an already strained prison system. Marijuana use is a personal choice and should not be a criminal act,” said Rep. Gabbard. “For many years, I have worked to end the marijuana prohibition and am proud to push this legislation forward that will begin to right the wrongs of the past and invest in communities who have been most harmed.”

“Despite the legalization of marijuana in states across the country, those with criminal convictions for marijuana still face second class citizenship. Their vote, access to education, employment, and housing are all negatively impacted,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “Racially motivated enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionally impacted communities of color. It’s past time to right this wrong nationwide and work to view marijuana use as an issue of personal choice and public health, not criminal behavior. I’m proud to sponsor the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement 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.”

The MORE Act

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement 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, 4thMVMT, ACLU, California Minority Alliance, 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, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Rep. Gabbard has long called for sensible marijuana policies as part of her ongoing commitment to common sense criminal justice reform. She introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Don Young (AK-at large) — (the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (H.R. 1588) and the Marijuana Data Collection Act (H.R. 1587). H.R. 1588 would remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list. H.R. 1587 would direct the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of state legalized medicinal and adult-use marijuana programs from a variety of perspectives, including state revenues, public health, substance abuse and opioids, criminal justice, and employment.

She has called for closing the gaps between federal and state law to resolve current contradictions and provide legally abiding marijuana businesses with clear access to financial services. She is a cosponsor of H.R. 1456, the Marijuana Justice Act to reform unjust federal marijuana laws and empower minority communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the failed War on Drugs. And, to protect veterans engaged in the state-legalized cannabis industry, Rep. Gabbard sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in June 2019 to demand a correction of the VA’s denial of loan guarantee benefits to these veterans.

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