How Big of a Deal is this Weed Bill

When trying to understand the central issues that face cannabis legalization, its hypocrisy and the criticality to finding solutions now Dave Chapelle lays it out best; “Why In the hell are we letting the government pay their bills with weed money while they have people locked up for trying to pay their bills with weed money?”

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The answer is rooted in racism, a government willfully ignoring science and, racism. While historically 2020 presidential candidate and Senator Kamala Harris has, according to the Los Angeles Times, opposed legalized cannabis in California having only supported medical use, her position had clearly and fundamentally changed. Harris introduced a bill last Tuesday to not only decriminalize cannabis but to also generate revenue for those most hurt by the War on Drugs. Taking things a step even further in the right direction, this revenue generated isn’t only assigned to re-invest in people and communities hurt by the war on drugs, it helps them get licenses for cannabis businesses as well. 

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act written by Harris and co-sponsored by House Rep and Judiciary chair Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. proposes the most sweeping and comprehensive reform ever introduced federallyl. Not only does the bill decriminalize possession of cannabis at the federal level (common amongst most 2020 Democrats) but it also imposes a 5% federal tax on the sale of cannabis allocating these funds to grant programs that help individuals who have been most hurt by cannabis possession sentences, helps them obtain licenses and has a “nondiscrimination tenat” that guarantees those who were charged with possession to eligible for public assistance. This tenant also protects anyone from deportation due to cannabis. Essentially, you aren’t barred from public benefits and it won’t impact your status in this country.

This, combined with helping obtain licenses for communities, is huge.

To refresh everyone’s memory The Sentencing Project reported in 2015 a well known fact in America.  “Black and white Americans experience different policing practices. They encounter the police at different rates and for different reasons, and they are treated differently during these encounters.” 

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In every data point of the report, even though Black and Latin X communities make up smaller population sizes in America, they are arrested (and continue to be arrested) at disproportionately high rates despite similar weed consumption patterns. To make the situation even more infuriating, 2 in 3 Americans support legalization. That’s right, over 65% of people in America want it legal

While the bill doesn’t tell states what to do (i.e. they can still keep it illegal), this bill would decriminalize cannabis on a federal level removing it as a scheduled substance allowing for not only a reduction in sentences but allowing for current businesses to use financial institutions. Veterans would also be able to use medical cannabis. The bill also, as mentioned previously, won’t bar you from public benefits like Medicaid or public housing. While it’s a long shot that this will pass in the Senate, according to Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-O.R. who has been a supporter and proponent of many cannabis bills noted publicly that this bill is “the path forward” in fixing cannabis policy. Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, according to CNBC echoed Bllumenauer’s sentiments noting it’s “the most comprehensive and functional legislation put forth.”

So, what exactly does the bill cover and how does this stack up against other candidates? We made a handy cheat sheet because graphics are nice. Before you start scrolling, Drug Policy Alliance made this handy form for you to tell your elected reps that you want the MORE Act to pass!

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