For the first time ever, the Chamber of Congress is set to vote to decriminalize cannabis on a federal level. Last Friday, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D.) announced that lawmakers would vote next month on the measure.
This is a historic decision for Congress. First introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D.), the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act will give a second chance to those who have been affected by the war on drugs.
“This fund would include grant programs administered by the Department of Justice and the Small Business Administration to support individuals who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs, provide assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners, and minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment,” Clyburn said in an email.
Essentially, if passed, individual states would decide the regulations. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything, except increase support for states already in progress of legalizing cannabis. Nonetheless, this measure would also remove the drug from the Controlled Substance Act, effectively decriminalizing it. Additionally, the MORE Act would also expunge any prior marijuana-related convictions. Individuals would have to apply for the expungement program, and not everyone will qualify. Finally, the act would also impose a five percent sales tax that would be reinvested into the communities affected by the war on drugs.
Bigger Than Decriminalization
It goes without saying, this is a huge decision for Congress, and for many reasons. This isn’t just a way to collect more taxes from citizens or clear space in prisons. This is an attempt to fix the injustices that have come about for years in the past.
“As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support while ensuring restorative justice,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D.) said in a statement to Marijuana Movement.
This path towards federal decriminalization has been a long one. Whether you realize it or not, police have used cannabis as a scapegoat to apprehend innocent Americans, mainly people of color. Often times, officers will use the suspicion of cannabis to arrest an individual. Now, the federal government has an opportunity to fix what has been broken for years.
“Less than two years ago, we put out our blueprint outlining a path to cannabis legalization in the 116th Congress,” Blumenauer said. “Now, after many months of hard work and collaboration, we finally have a chance to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against people of color, especially Black men.”