Sensing Urgency, Marijuana Justice Coalition Asks Congress to Back MORE Act
More than a dozen national advocacy organizations have penned a joint letter to members of Congress asking for their support of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
Known as the Marijuana Justice Coalition (MJC), the consortium includes several civil rights and criminal justice groups, along with pro-cannabis organizations like NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance.
In their letter, the MJC argues that federal cannabis reform should be a priority at a time when the country is grappling with social equity issues and working to combat the global coronavirus pandemic.
“The MORE Act is needed now more than ever before,” the MJC wrote. “Looking toward long-term economic recovery, we must remove barriers to employment for those who have lost jobs, create new businesses and employment opportunities to help replace those that have disappeared and that will not be coming back, and to raise billions of dollars in new tax revenue to offset the devastating economic losses to state and local governments.”
Indeed, the MORE Act (H.R. 3884) — which the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved by a vote of 24-10 eight months ago — would decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, create a 5% excise tax and allow states to establish their own marijuana policies.
Beyond creating a new federal tax revenue stream, the bill has several other benefits, according to the MJC, which laid out the pros of national legalization in the July 21 letter.
The MORE Act calls for the establishment of a Cannabis Justice Office that is tasked with administering grants to individuals most adversely impacted by the “War on Drugs.” It also requires federal courts to expunge cannabis-related offenses within one year of its passage, something the group said would “drastically reduce the burden of marijuana charges and arrests in the criminal justice 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 MJC wrote.
Additionally, descheduling cannabis via the MORE Act would allow banks and other financial institutions to work with marijuana businesses and require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on owners and employees within the industry.
It would also open up federal research of cannabis while simultaneously providing veterans with greater access to medical marijuana.
The MORE Act has amassed 76 co-sponsors since it was introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) at this time last year.
Only 11 representatives have signed onto the bill so far in 2020 and its chances of passing currently sit at just 2%, according to GovTrack.
Nevertheless, the MJC believes that federal cannabis legalization could be a key driver of economic recovery as the U.S. begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every industry will have a role to play in rebuilding the U.S. economy after the pandemic, and a legal, regulated marijuana industry is no different,” the group wrote. “The MORE Act will ensure that the economic recovery effort is equitable and just.”
The MJC and other supporters of the MORE Act are running out of time to drum up new cosponsors, however. The 116th Congress is slated to adjourn on January 3, 2021.
"The seismic circumstances brought by 2020 have demonstrated the pressing need for a legal marijuana industry grounded in equity, justice, and commonsense, the letter reads. "We ask that you show your support by co-sponsoring the MORE Act today in order to help ensure its swift passage this Congressional session."
In addition to NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance, other members of the MJC include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for American Progress, The Center for Law and Social Policy, Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, JustLeadershipUSA, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, National Association of Social Workers, The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
Several polls conducted over the last year have shown overwhelming support for national legalization, and a number of notable politicians used the 420 holiday earlier this year to call for federal legalization and other pro-cannabis policies.
Currently, eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Meanwhile, 33 states have legalized medical cannabis sales and 47 states have reformed cannabis laws.
Read the MJC’s full letter here.