(Extensions of Remarks - May 28, 2021)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E592]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                              ACT OF 2021


                          HON. JERROLD NADLER

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                          Friday, May 28, 2021

  Mr. NADLER. Madam Speaker, today I am proud to have introduced the 
``Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021,'' or 
the ``MORE Act of 2021.'' This long overdue legislation would reverse 
the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and 
would take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across 
the country, particularly on communities of color.
  The MORE Act would make three important changes to federal law:
  (1) remove marijuana, or cannabis, from the list of federally 
controlled substances;
  (2) authorize the provision of resources, funded by an excise tax on 
marijuana, to address the needs of communities that have been seriously 
impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of 
communities of color in the burgeoning cannabis market; and
  (3) provide for the expungement of Federal marijuana convictions and 
  For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice 
problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. 
Whatever one's views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or 
medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at 
the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust.
  This issue is not new to Congress. There have been many Members who 
have introduced bills upon which provisions in this bill are based. For 
instance, Representative Barbara Lee has sponsored bills that are the 
foundation of key provisions of the MORE Act, and I thank her for her 
longstanding leadership on this issue. Representative Earl Blumenauer 
has also been an indefatigable advocate and has supported everything we 
have done to get to where we are today. I thank him, as well as my 
other colleagues who have joined me as original cosponsors on the bill.
  Federal action on this issue would follow the growing recognition in 
the states that the status quo is unacceptable. Despite the federal 
government's continuing criminalization of marijuana, 36 states and the 
District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Fifteen states 
and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult 
recreational use.
  I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a 
mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has 
only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly 
for communities of color.
  It was only in the early part of the 20th century that marijuana 
began to be criminalized in the United States--mainly because of 
misinformation and hysteria, based at least in part on racially-biased 
stereotypes connecting marijuana use and people of color, particularly 
African-Americans arid Latinos. In 1970, when President Nixon announced 
the War on Drugs and signed the Controlled Substances Act into law, the 
federal government placed marijuana on Schedule I, the most restrictive 
schedule that is attached to the most serious criminal penalties, 
where--unfairly and unjustifiably--it has remained ever since.
  As a consequence of this decision, thousands of individuals--
overwhelmingly people of color--have been subjected, by the federal 
government, to unjust prison sentences for marijuana offenses. It is 
time for this manifest injustice to end. The MORE Act would remove 
marijuana from Schedule I and the Controlled Substances Act altogether, 
thereby decriminalizing it at the Federal level.
  This is only fair, particularly because the same racial animus 
motivating the enactment of marijuana laws also led to racially 
disproportionate enforcement of such laws, which has had a substantial, 
negative impact on communities of color. In fact, nationwide, the 
communities that have been most harmed by marijuana enforcement are 
benefitting the least from the legal marijuana marketplace.
  The MORE Act would address some of these negative impacts, by 
establishing an Opportunity Trust Fund within the Department of 
Treasury to fund programs within the Department of Justice and the 
Small Business Administration to empower communities of color and those 
adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. These programs would provide 
services to individuals, including job training, reentry services and 
substance use disorder services; provide funds for loans to assist 
small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and 
economically disadvantaged individuals; and provide resources for 
programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment 
for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  The collateral consequences of a conviction for marijuana 
possession--and even sometimes for a mere arrest--can be devastating. 
For those saddled with a criminal conviction, it can be difficult or 
impossible to vote, to obtain educational loans, to get a job, to 
maintain a professional license, to secure housing, to receive 
government assistance, or even to adopt a child.
  These exclusions create an often-permanent second-class status for 
millions of Americans. This is unacceptable and counterproductive, 
especially given the disproportionate impact that enforcement of 
marijuana laws has had on communities of color. The MORE Act recognizes 
this injustice and addresses these harmful effects by expunging and 
sealing federal convictions and arrests for marijuana offenses. Indeed, 
the states have led the way--and continue to lead the way--on 
marijuana, but our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious 
need for change. We need to catch up because the public supports reform 
and because it is the right thing to do.
  In my view, applying criminal penalties, with their attendant 
collateral consequences for marijuana offenses is unjust and harmful to 
our society. The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice, and 
I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation.