Civil Rights Coalition Urges Congress to Pass Bill Decriminalizing Cannabis at a Federal Level

A group of more than 200 national social justice organizations is calling on lawmakers to pass an act that federally legalizes marijuana and clears past marijuana convictions.

Just weeks after the United States House of Representatives made history by passing the first-ever marijuana banking bill, another bill with a social justice focus is being propelled to the House floor by a civil rights coalition.

“The war on marijuana has been a war on people, disproportionately Latinx and African American communities, veterans, noncitizens, and low-income individuals and families. It would be extremely disappointing for the only marijuana reform that passes the House this Congress to be one that benefits the industry and leaves behind communities still dealing with the devastating impact of federal prohibition,” the coalition’s CEO wrote in an Oct. 8 letter to representatives.

That coalition, the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, is made up of more than 200 national organizations.

Days before the House passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Act of 2019 (SAFE Banking Act), human rights groups reached out in concern about the need for broader reform in the marijuana bill. Despite concerns, the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act passed with a 321-103 vote.

While many representatives voiced opposition leading up to the bill’s vote, all but one voted in favor of the SAFE Banking Act. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) spoke about the need for broader reform prior to the vote highlighting several bills, including the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, that have a social justice foundation.

House Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), introduced the MORE Act in July while 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced a sister bill in the Senate. The MORE Act would remove tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the Controlled Substances Act, and expunge certain cannabis convictions while reinvesting federal funds into communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, stated in the letter to representatives that prior to and after the SAFE Banking vote, several House leaders including Majority Leader Hoyer, Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Chairman James McGovern (D-MA) made public calls to quickly advance the MORE Act.

“We strongly urge you to join Chairman Nadler and other congressional leaders as a co-sponsor of the MORE Act and to be a part of this historic opportunity to address the decades of harm faced by communities of color and low-income communities due to failed marijuana policies,” Gupta wrote.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition made up of more than 200 national organizations with a mission to promote and protect the civil and human rights of all people in the U.S. The full letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights can be found, here.

Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act or H.R. 3884, has been called one of the most comprehensive cannabis reform bills to date.

Some highlights of the MORE Act include:

  • Federally decriminalizes marijuana and applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, while granting states the power to set their own cannabis policies.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior cannabis convictions, and to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Establishes the Opportunity Trust Fund by authorizing a 5 percent tax on cannabis and cannabis products.
  • Prevents the deportation of immigrants based on a marijuana conviction.

Other Cannabis Industry Happenings

Visit our cannabis politics page to learn more about cannabis-related policies being considered on the federal level as well as on the state level. To read more updates on the cannabis industry, visit our cannabis news page.