Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will be introducing a bill on July 23, 2019, which would legalize on the federal level marijuana.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act would use revenue from taxes to help create a fund to help communities fight the war on drugs. It would also expunge convictions which are marijuana-based.
The bill would also encourage businesses within the marijuana industry, which are minority-owned.
Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and activists look at the criminalization of marijuana as a civil rights issue.
The American Civil Liberties Union found that between 2001 and 2010 showed that African Americans are 3.73 more likely than Caucasians to be arrested on marijuana charges.
In the past, Harris has been against the legalization of marijuana. In 2010 when Harris was the district attorney of San Francisco and was running for the attorney general of Californa opposed Proposition 19 which would have legalized in the state recreational usage of marijuana.
Harris released a statement regarding the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. She stated:
“Times have changed—marijuana should not be a crime. We need to start regulating marijuana and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so that they can get on with their lives.
As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone—especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs—has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”
The bill has the support of the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
If the bill is passed, Congress would be granted permission to use 50 percent of the annual tax revenue which was generated by the marijuana industry to form an Opportunity Trust Fund which would contain three programs run by grants.
The first, the Community Reinvestment Grant, would provide literacy programs, job training, and re-entry services for people who have been impacted negatively by the War on Drugs.
The Cannabis Opportunity Grand will provide to small businesses within the marijuana industry funds to those which are owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The final grant, the Equitable Licensing Grant, would help the Small Business Administration reduce barriers to obtaining marijuana licensing. It would also wave the application fee for people who have incomes which are below the poverty level.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics would have to keep track of demographic information in the marijuana industry to ensure minorities, in particular people of color, are actively participating as either employees or business owners. Immigrants would be precluded from being denied citizenship or deported based on a marijuana charge.
Nadler said in a statement:
“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 disproportionately 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.”
Written by Barbara Sobel
Daily Beast: Kamala Harris and Jerry Nadler Team on Major Marijuana Legislation
CBS News: Kamala Harris to propose decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level
The Hill: Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana
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