Last Friday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and several others introduced legislation decriminalizing marijuana. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) act addresses the need for comprehensive marijuana reform. The MORE act aims to address the harms caused by America’s war on drugs and communities of color. Black people continue to be most affected by the current drug laws. A recent report by the ACLU states that a black person is three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. Erinn Martin, policy counsel with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said,
“For more than 80 years, the criminalization of marijuana has ravaged Black and Brown communities in this country. The MORE Act addresses the devastating impact federal marijuana laws have had on people of color, and on Black Americans who are four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white Americans despite equal usage rates.
“It is time to right the wrongs caused by the War on Drugs and reinvest in communities devastated by it. Many Black Americans and other people of color have been trapped in a cycle of economic deprivation, as a prior cannabis-related conviction is a barrier to securing a good-paying job, accessing federal benefits and student loans, and so much more. We urge Congress to move swiftly to pass this legislation and bring relief to these communities.”
The MORE Act removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, allows for expungement and resentencing for individuals with cannabis offenses, and invests in job training, reentry services, legal aid, literacy programs, and more in communities. The MORE act would set a 5 percent tax on retail sales that would increase to 8 percent over three years. The revenue from marijuana retail sales would go to the Opportunity Trust Fund. This fund would pay for job training and re-entry services, legal aid, and health education programs for impacted communities. The MORE Act also seeks to create an office of Cannabis Justice. This office would prevent the government from penalizing marijuana users who use social services.
In a statement, Rep. Jerrold Nadler said, “Since I introduced the MORE Act last Congress, numerous states across the nation, including my home state of New York, have moved to legalize marijuana, our federal laws must keep up with this pace.”
According to details in the MORE Act, The Small Business Administration would create a Cannabis Restorative Opportunity Program to help businesses owned and operated by underserved individuals. This program would develop equity licensing programs to minimize the barriers people in underserved communities face. Many believe the passage of the MORE act is an essential part of criminal justice reform. The ACLU reported enforcement of cannabis laws costs taxpayers over $3billion each year. For additional information on the MORE act, visit, https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3884.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on Twitter @DanieSanders20.