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Democrats Introduce Marijuana Reform Bill

By Edgar M. Rivera

On July 23, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (the “MORE Act”) which aims to decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the list of controlled substances in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and to ensure that those impacted by the war on drugs have an opportunity to be a part of the cannabis industry.  The House version of the bill, H.R. 3884, has 28 Democratic and 1 Republican co-sponsors; the Senate version, S. 2227, has four co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.

According to the press release issued by Senator Harris, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.

2018 sales of legal recreational and medical cannabis in the United States were between $8.6 billion-$10 billion.  The marijuana industry now rivals Taco Bell’s annual U.S. revenue and, by 2020, will likely surpass yearly revenue figures generated by the National Football League.  By the end of 2023, sales of legal cannabis in the United States could exceed Americans’ collective spending on gym memberships.  The Marijuana Business Factbook estimates that from 2018 to 2023, sales of legal cannabis in the United States could grow by nearly 200 percent.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” said Sen. Harris. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. I am thrilled to work with Chairman Nadler on this timely and important step toward racial and economic justice.”

At The Harman Firm, LLP, we support this bill—it is about time that marijuana reform is taken seriously at the federal level.  If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability or lawful use of medical marijuana, contact The Harman Firm, LLP.

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