Open Letter from Researchers, Academics, Clinicians, and Public Health Organizations Endorsing Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill

Over 100 researchers, academics and clinicians, and 16 public health organizations have signed this open letter endorsing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, an important piece of legislation which would de-schedule marijuana and reinvest in communities most impacted by the drug war.

The MORE Act is an opportunity to reduce the public health harms of criminalization; reduce barriers and increase opportunities for research and medical advances; and protect patients in states with medical and adult access from federal interference.

Download the full letter and list of signatories (PDF)

As researchers, academics, clinicians, and public health organizations, we publicly endorse the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, and ask that Members of Congress prioritize, mark up, and swiftly move this critical piece of legislation to the House floor for a vote. We believe that the responsible regulation and control of marijuana will be more beneficial to society and the public’s health than prohibiting and criminalizing it. 

Ending federal prohibition of marijuana is an opportunity to: 

  • Reduce the public health harms of criminalization; 
  • Reduce barriers and increase opportunities for research and medical advances; and
  • Protect patients in states with medical and adult access from federal interference.

Reducing criminalization and the risks to health and wellbeing, particularly for communities of color.

In 2018, marijuana-related arrests were 40% of the 1.65 million drug-related arrests made in the United States. The majority of these marijuana-related arrests (92%) were for personal possession. Although marijuana arrests do not always result in incarceration, police contact, arrests, and drug convictions can carry significant collateral consequences that can place health and wellbeing at risk. Research suggests that police contact and arrest can be harmful for the mental health of surveilled and policed populations. Some harmful collateral consequences associated with drug convictions can include ineligibility for social services including public housing, restricted employment opportunities, ineligibility for federal financial aid, and denial of voting rights. 

It is also worth noting that the harms of prohibitions have not been distributed equally. Despite similar rates of marijuana use among Black and white people, the odds of incarceration for marijuana possession are 3.7 times higher for a Black person than a white person. The consequences of incarceration – separation from family, loss of economic opportunity, disenfranchisement, and social stigma, among many others – only exacerbate the already profound effects of incarceration on health and wellbeing. Any system that perpetuates inequities such as this are inherently unjust and unhealthy – inequities lead to disparities in access to health care, resources, and support, which in turn is a major indicator of poor health outcomes. 

Expanding the opportunities for scientific research on health effects and medical uses.

Researchers face a number of barriers to conducting research on marijuana due to its Schedule I status. Researchers must receive special permissions from the federal government, outfit their laboratories with heightened safety measures, and face deeper scrutiny on their protocols and research methods. Scientific studies of marijuana and other scheduled substances cost more, take longer, and require more administration and oversight than studies of other substances. Due to marijuana’s federally illicit status, researchers also continue to be impacted by the lack of consumer-grade products to conduct research with. 

While studies have demonstrated potential for marijuana as a treatment for chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, seizures, and multiple-sclerosis spasticity, there are other potential under-explored medical and therapeutic uses. Some research suggests that marijuana may be a helpful adjunct or substitute for prescription opioid medications and more research could explore whether expanded access could help to reduce the risk of opioid overdose death. Removing marijuana from its restrictive Schedule I classification would open the door for greater and deeper understanding of its properties, and more access for qualifying patients.   

Protecting states with legal medical and adult access from federal interference. 

Under the MORE Act, states will no longer fear interference from the federal government. Medical marijuana patients and adults purchasing marijuana in their states’ regulated markets are currently at risk of losing access if the federal government were to interfere in these state policies. Allowing individual states to undergo their own democratic policymaking process will ensure that policies match the needs and will of that state’s people – without fear of the federal government.

The MORE Act provides a clear path forward that rights the wrongs of prohibition. We ask that Members of Congress support this important legislation and ensure that it is swiftly marked up and voted out of the House this Congress.

Marijuana Legalization and Regulation