Maui Business

Gabbard Introduces Bill to End Marijuana Prohibition

July 24, 2019, 8:35 AM HST
* Updated July 26, 8:02 AM
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Representative Tulsi Gabbard joined House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler of New York in introducing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement or “MORE” Act.

The bill aims to address the decriminalization of marijuana as well as criminal justice issues that Rep. Gabbard says has “disproportionately impacted underserved communities.”

“Millions of Americans have fallen victim to the failed ‘War on Drugs,’ tearing families apart, disproportionately harming minority communities, and overcrowding an already strained prison system. Marijuana use is a personal choice and should not be a criminal act,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “For many years I have worked to end the marijuana prohibition and am proud to push this legislation forward that will begin to right the wrongs of the past, and invest in communities who have been most harmed.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee said:

“Despite the legalization of marijuana in states across the country, those with criminal convictions for marijuana still face second class citizenship. Their vote, access to education, employment, and housing are all negatively impacted.  Racially motivated enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionally impacted communities of color. It’s past time to right this wrong nationwide and work to view marijuana use as an issue of personal choice and public health, not criminal behavior. I’m proud to sponsor the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.”

Backers of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act say it would do the following:

  • Decriminalize 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.
  • Require 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.
  • Authorize 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; and 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.
  • Open up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provide non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense: Prohibit the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense; Provide that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Require 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.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has long called for “sensible marijuana policies” as part of her ongoing commitment to what she calls “common sense criminal justice reform.”

She introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Don Young of Alaska — (the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act (H.R. 1588) and the Marijuana Data Collection Act (H.R. 1587). H.R. 1588 aims to remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list. H.R. 1587 seeks to direct the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of state legalized medicinal and adult-use marijuana programs from a variety of perspectives, including state revenues, public health, substance abuse and opioids, criminal justice and employment.

She has called for closing the gaps between federal and state law to resolve current contradictions and provide legally abiding marijuana businesses with clear access to financial services.

She is a cosponsor of H.R. 1456, the Marijuana Justice Act to reform federal marijuana laws and empower minority communities that she says “have been disproportionately impacted” by the “War on Drugs.” And, to protect veterans engaged in the state-legalized cannabis industry, Rep. Gabbard sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in June 2019 to “demand a correction” of the VA’s denial of loan guarantee benefits to these veterans.

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