Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act—with original co-sponsors Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)—in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill is backed by 155 organizations who support moving the MORE Act swiftly to the House floor this summer. The bill—which completely deschedules marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, addresses the lifelong consequences of marijuana criminalization, reinvests in communities that have borne the brunt of prohibition, and takes steps to ensure an equitable and diverse marketplace—is supported by civil rights groups, public health professionals, law enforcement, directly-impacted people, and state and local marijuana regulators from across the country.
“It is clear, by the overwhelming extent to which they passed the MORE Act last session, that the House understands this for the urgent racial and social justice issue it is,” said Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Our communities that have borne the brunt of marijuana prohibition have waited long enough for justice. We urge House leadership to move swiftly to bring the bill back to the floor this session, so that we can continue the momentum and move a marijuana justice bill in the Senate as well.”
In December 2020, the MORE Act made history when it became the first piece of comprehensive marijuana reform legislation that actually deschedules marijuana—and the only one centered in reparative justice—to pass either chamber of Congress. The bill, which was overwhelmingly passed in a 228-164 vote, was backed by 120 House co-sponsors, including a strong contingent of House Leadership.
While the final version of the MORE Act that passed the House last year ended up including language that excluded some directly-impacted people from being able to fully participate in the industry at the federal level, this language was removed from the version that was reintroduced today.
“With the majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization for adult use, and the way in which communities of color have been devastated by prohibition finally being widely acknowledged, prioritizing marijuana reform that begins to undo this harm and give back to those communities should be a no-brainer,” said Queen Adesuyi, Policy Manager for the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “We are grateful that not only was this bill reintroduced so early in the session, but that the exclusionary language that ended up getting added in through the political process last year was removed. This bill is meant to comprehensively address the widespread harms of prohibition, and it is impossible to do that if we are still leaving those that have already paid the steepest price out. We urge House Leadership to bring this bill to the floor without delay.”
DPA has worked tirelessly to move the MORE Act forward since its inception, by working with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and then-Senator Kamala Harris to draft and introduce the legislation last session, creating the Marijuana Justice Coalition to build widespread support, and pushing for an initial Judiciary Committee mark-up amid a busy impeachment trial. This collective effort resulted in the MORE Act being passed out of committee in November 2019 and passed by the full House in December 2020. Throughout, DPA has consistently educated legislators on the inequalities created by marijuana prohibition, which have exacerbated this moment’s intersecting health and racial injustice crises, and continued to build momentum around equitable and just federal reform. At the beginning of 2021, DPA convened the Federal Cannabis Regulations Working Group to determine what a federal regulatory framework—grounded in justice and social equity—should look like, and the group released its Principles for Federal Cannabis Regulations & Reform in April 2021.
Last year’s Senate companion bill, S.2227, was introduced by then-Senator Kamala Harris and attracted notable co-sponsors, including Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Another bill that builds on the MORE Act is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Booker (D-NJ), and Wyden (D-OR) in the near future.
According to the most recent Gallup public opinion poll, 68% of Americans support marijuana legalization. Thirty-five states plus the District of Columbia have laws that allow legal access to medical marijuana, 16 states plus the District of Columbia allow legal access to marijuana for adult use, and two additional states—New Mexico and Virginia—have passed legalization, but it has yet to take effect. Despite this, the continued enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws are responsible for more than half a million arrests in the United States every year. Black and Brown people are disproportionately impacted, with Black people specifically being four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people despite equal rates of consumption. Marijuana has also been one of the leading causes of deportation in the United States.