Drug policy reform advocates and lawmakers celebrated on Wednesday after a key congressional committee approved a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition for the first time in history.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10, including two “aye” votes from Republican lawmakers, to advance the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is the bill’s sponsor.
The legislation would federally deschedule cannabis, provide expungement and resentencing relief and impose a five percent federal tax on marijuana sales to support investments in communities most harmed by the drug war. It would also protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.
Here’s how people are reacting to the bill’s historic passage.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):
Proud to announce that @HouseJudiciary just passed my MORE Act, which ends the federal prohibition of marijuana and enacts restorative justice for communities of color that continue to be devastated by our nation’s failed War on Drugs. #WeWantMORE pic.twitter.com/9FEn9DF9pq
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) November 20, 2019
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ):
“After years of work in the Senate, our efforts to pair marijuana legalization with expungement and reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs have finally led us to today’s critical mark-up,” Booker said in a statement. “The war on drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, harmed job prospects and access to housing for our nation’s most vulnerable communities, and destroyed countless lives.”
“The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to advance this bill is a significant step toward righting these wrongs and healing the wounds of decades of injustice,” he said.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA):
“This is really a defining moment on so many fronts as it relates to cannabis reform,” Lee told Marijuana Moment in an interview prior to the vote. “I have to salute and thank Chairman Nadler for being bold and for living up to his commitment and for making sure that this is a comprehensive bill that will address the different aspects of these very complicated issues.”
🚨 BREAKING: The MORE Act just passed out of committee! This is a HUGE step forward in righting the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs. Let’s keep up the fight and get this passed on the floor! #WeWantMORE https://t.co/r7cVqWGX6l
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) November 20, 2019
“For those who have been victimized by these unjust laws, I want to just say to them that we have to keep optimistic, keep hope alive and just know that their members of Congress worked to make sure that justice is served.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) November 20, 2019
This vote was a vote for progressive reform, for racial justice, for personal freedom, for economic opportunity, and for better health. #WeWantMORE
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) November 20, 2019
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO):
I’m glad @HouseJudiciary is marking up the #MOREAct today. This comprehensive legislation will help modernize our federal cannabis policies, ensure policies are fair, equitable & inclusive, and invest in local communities. #WeWantMORE https://t.co/rqYynSeXZr
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) November 20, 2019
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME):
Today @HouseJudiciary will vote on the #MOREAct which would decriminalize marijuana, reassess pot convictions, and support small businesses. I’m proud to be a cosponsor of this common sense bill. It’s time to bring federal cannabis policies into the 21st century.
— Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) November 20, 2019
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI):
Our cannabis policy is reflective of the failures of our past.
Rooted in a racist war on drugs targeting communities of color—it’s time we right our wrongs.
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) November 20, 2019
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal:
“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” Strekal said. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most.”
HISTORY MADE: The MORE Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a 24-10 bipartisan vote. Next stop the House floor! Thanks to all of you who sent nearly 60,000 letters in the last few days. #WeDeserveMORE #MakeHistory #WeDidIt #Onward #EndingProhibition pic.twitter.com/CKCMoRxo8a
— NORML (@NORML) November 20, 2019
“In 2018 alone, over 663,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana-related crimes, a three-year high,” he said. “Now that Chairman Nadler has moved the MORE Act through committee, it is time for the full House to vote and have every member of Congress show their constituents which side of history they stand on.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri:
“This is a truly historic moment in our nation’s political history,” Altieri said. “For the first time, a Congressional committee has approved far-reaching legislation to not just put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, but to address the countless harms our prohibitionist policies have wrought, notable on communities of color and other marginalized groups.”
“Opposition to our failed war on marijuana has reached a boiling point with over two-thirds of all Americans, including majorities of all political persuasions, now supporting legalization,” he said. “Congress should respect the will of the people and promptly approve the MORE Act and close this dark chapter of failed public policy.”
Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno:
“With today’s mark-up of the MORE Act, the United States is coming one step closer to ending the devastating harms of marijuana prohibition, which have fallen so heavily on Black and Brown people,” Sánchez-Moreno said.
“This legislation won’t make up for the full scale of harm that prohibition has caused to its victims. It’s not going to return anyone their lost dreams, time lost at the mercy of the criminal justice system; or the years spent away from their families,” she said. “But this legislation is the closest we’ve come yet to not only ending those harms at the federal level, but also beginning to repair them. Now it’s up to Congress to do the right thing and swiftly pass the bill to ensure justice is not delayed a moment longer.”
Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine:
“This committee vote is a historic step forward for cannabis policy reform at the federal level,” Levine said. The MORE Act would ensure cannabis consumers and businesses are treated fairly under the law. It would also bolster state and industry efforts to promote diversity within the cannabis business community, while helping communities and individuals adversely impacted by the war on drugs.”
The House Judiciary just made history, casting the first-ever congressional vote in favor of ending cannabis prohibition! Help keep the momentum going — tell your lawmakers to support the MORE Act! Take action now and urge others to do the same! https://t.co/wymUGkdoHg
— Cannabis Trade Federation (@CanTradeFed) November 20, 2019
“A solid majority of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition, and we’re finally seeing that reflected in a vote on Capitol Hill. These votes demonstrate the broad bipartisan support that exists in Congress for allowing states to determine their own cannabis policies,” he said. “There appears to be a consensus among both parties that the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws is untenable and needs to be resolved. We encourage our allies in the Democratic and Republican parties come together to find a bipartisan path forward and pass a law this Congress.”
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association:
“Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered,” Smith said. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of advocates and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, we’ve seen more progress in this Congress than ever before.”
Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered. https://t.co/cdMaNAKHfd
— Aaron Smith (@FAaronSmith) November 20, 2019
“Supermajority public support for legalization, increasing recognition of the devastating impacts of prohibition on marginalized communities and people of color, and the undeniable success of state cannabis programs throughout the country are all helping to build momentum for comprehensive change in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Americans for Safe Access Interim Director Debbie Churgai:
“This groundbreaking legislation would eliminate barriers to cannabis research and provide access for patients throughout the entire country,” Churgai said. “It is time our federal government steps up to provide relief so that patients everywhere can medicate without fear of losing any of their civil rights and protections, including while in federal housing or healthcare settings, such as hospices.”
— Americans4SafeAccess (@SafeAccess) November 20, 2019
Maritza Perez, senior policy analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress:
“We commend Chairman Nadler, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and the House Judiciary Committee for voting the MORE Act out of committee today,” Perez said. “Along with the Marijuana Justice Coalition, CAP has called on Congress to enact marijuana legalization legislation centered on justice reform and equity. We are proud of the milestone reached today and ask that this bill now move swiftly to the House floor for a vote.”
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Vanita Gupta:
Very big deal. MORE Act passes out of @HouseJudiciary with bipartisan support.
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) November 20, 2019
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Written by Marijuana Moment