Social justice bill would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, expunge records and reinvest in communities most impacted by War on Drugs
Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley last week joined Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and colleagues in reintroducing the Marijuana Justice Act to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.
“The War on Drugs destroyed lives, and no one continues to be devastated more than low-income communities and communities of color,” said Wyden. “There is a desperate need not only to correct course by ending the failed federal prohibition of marijuana, but to right these wrongs and ensure equal justice for people who have been disproportionately hurt.”
“More than half of the United States has enacted legislation allowing for either medical or adult-use of cannabis, yet federal law remains in conflict,” Merkley said. “This creates significant problems, not only with the prosecution of nonviolent cannabis crimes — which disproportionately hurts people of color — but also with lack of banking services for legally operating businesses. As long as financial institutions aren’t able to service cannabis enterprises, these businesses are forced to operate in an all-cash environment that’s unsafe and lacks accountability. This bill would place cannabis legalization in the hands of states — exactly where it should be.”
Beyond removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances – making it legal at the federal level – the Marijuana Justice Act would also automatically expunge the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, and it would reinvest in the communities most hurt by the failed War on Drugs through a community fund. This community reinvestment fund could be used for projects such as job training programs, re-entry services and community centers.
The bill would also provide incentives to states through the use of federal funds to change their marijuana laws if those laws were shown to have a disproportionate effect on low-income individuals and/or people of color. The Marijuana Justice Act is retroactive and would apply to those already serving time behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, providing for a judge’s review of marijuana sentences.
In addition to Wyden, Merkley and Booker, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bernie Sanders, I-V.T., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., in the Senate.
Full bill text for the Marijuana Justice Act is available here.
Wyden earlier this year introduced S. 420, the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act, S. 421, Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act, and S. 422, the Small Business Tax Equity Act. This legislative package – the Path to Marijuana Reform – would preserve the integrity of state marijuana laws and provide a path for responsible federal legalization and regulation of the marijuana industry.