Legislation Provides Major Opportunity to Make Marijuana Justice a Reality this Session, but Work Remains to Remove Drug Testing Provisions & Exclusionary Language that Would Continue to Deny Justice to Certain Individuals
Washington, D.C.—In response to Senators Booker, Wyden and Schumer today unveiling a public draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act—their long-awaited Senate marijuana reform bill—which includes language from the House-passed Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act, Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“We have been clear from day one that any federal marijuana reform bill must be equally comprehensive to the devastation that has been caused by prohibition, particularly in Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. And we are grateful to see Senators Booker, Wyden and Schumer heeding that call by including language directly from the MORE Act—centering social equity, reparative justice and reinvestment—that we championed in the House, in the Senate bill, and we look forward to working with them to make marijuana justice a reality this session.
“However, work remains to ensure justice does not fall short. To our dismay, the Senate draft contains exclusionary language that ended up getting added to the House-passed MORE Act last year that would continue to subject federal employees to drug testing and deny certain individuals—who have already paid the highest price—the opportunity to expunge their records. In order for this bill to truly end marijuana prohibition in a comprehensive way and begin to repair the egregious harms of the past, we cannot continue to make room for some to be left out because of laws that were unjust and racist to begin with.
“We call on the House to remove exclusionary language from the MORE Act and swiftly pass the bill and implore the Senate to also remove this language ahead of bill introduction.”
DPA has worked tirelessly to move the MORE Act forward since its inception, by working with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and then-Senator Kamala Harris to draft and introduce the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act last session, creating the Marijuana Justice Coalition to build widespread support, and pushing for an initial Judiciary Committee mark-up amid a busy impeachment trial. This collective effort resulted in the MORE Act being passed out of committee in November 2019, passed by the full House in December 2020, and reintroduced this session in May 2021. Throughout, DPA has consistently educated legislators on the inequalities created by marijuana prohibition, which have exacerbated this moment’s intersecting health and racial injustice crises, and continued to build momentum around equitable and just federal reform. At the beginning of 2021, DPA convened the Federal Cannabis Regulations Working Group to determine what a federal regulatory framework—grounded in justice and social equity—should look like, and the group released its Principles for Federal Cannabis Regulations & Reform in April 2021.
Last year’s Senate companion bill, S.2227, was introduced by then-Senator Kamala Harris and attracted notable co-sponsors, including Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). In the Senate, Senators Schumer (D-NY), Booker (D-NJ), and Wyden (D-OR) are working on a marijuana bill that builds off of the MORE Act. .
According to the most recent Gallup public opinion poll, 68% of Americans support marijuana legalization. Thirty-five states plus the District of Columbia have laws that allow legal access to medical marijuana, 16 states plus the District of Columbia allow legal access to marijuana for adult use, and two additional states—New Mexico and Virginia—have passed legalization, but it has yet to take effect. Despite this, the continued enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws are responsible for more than half a million arrests in the United States every year. Black and Brown people are disproportionately impacted, with Black people specifically being four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people despite equal rates of consumption. Marijuana has also been one of the leading causes of deportation in the United States.