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Congressman: Voting for Criminal Justice Reform

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Congressman Kahele toured the Big Island Grown – Hawaii Cannabis Dispensary. PC: Kaiali’i Kahele

U.S. Representative Kaialiʻi Kahele’s office said Saturday the Congressman voted for historic criminal justice reform legislation to advance racial and economic justice. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act will expunge the records of those harmed by cannabis criminalization, create opportunities for all to participate in the legal cannabis industry and decriminalize cannabis at the federal level.

“I joined my colleagues in the House and voted in favor of delivering justice for those harmed by decades of unjust federal drug laws,” Kahele said in a press release Saturday, April 2. “The MORE Act means implementing smarter, fairer cannabis policies for Hawaiʻi. This landmark legislation advances racial, economic and social justice. It opens the door to prosperity for minority-owned cannabis businesses and would federally decriminalize cannabis.”

Despite reform laws passed in 47 states, the enforcement of federal cannabis criminalization continues to disproportionately harm people of color and hold many back from the benefits of the legal cannabis marketplace. People of color are four times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges – and are often targeted for longer prison sentences. Because prior cannabis convictions bar many individuals from entering the cannabis industry, only one-fifth of cannabis businesses are minority-owned and only four percent of owners are Black.

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Similar to previous legislation passed by the Democratic House in 2020, the MORE Act will help ensure that those harmed by criminalization can take full advantage of the legal and growing cannabis industry. In addition to expunging cannabis-related convictions and removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, this legislation:

  • Establishes the Opportunity Trust Fund to provide loans for small disadvantaged cannabis businesses, promote equitable cannabis licensing programs and fund re-entry services for those harmed by cannabis criminalization.
  • Prohibits the denial of any federal benefit based on the legal use or possession of cannabis, including housing.

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