By Natasha Pawar
WASHINGTON, DC – Legislative change allows for a big opportunity for marijuana justice, but drug testing provisions and exclusionary language in the current draft of the bill intended to be inclusive, might actually be excluding individuals.
The Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has relentlessly worked and supported the house passed Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act, since it was first introduced.
The group said it has worked with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler as well as Kamala Harris during her time as a Senator to put it together, garner support and create the Marijuana Justice Coalition.
With their support, the MORE Act was passed out of committee in November of 2019, passed by the House in December of 2020 and now, reintroduced in May of 2021.
Educating legislators about the innate inequalities of marijuana prohibition has been the priority of the DPA. This has intersected with the current ongoing health and racial injustice crises as well as the push for equitable federal reform.
Earlier this year, the DPA assembled the Federal Cannabis Regulations Working Group to discuss what a federal regulatory framework should look like if it were to be rooted in social equity and justice. This led to the release of the Principles for Federal Cannabis Regulations & Reform in April 2021.
The Senate companion bill of 2020, S 2227, attracted many co-sponsors, such as Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Senators Schumer (D-NY), Booker (D-NJ), and Wyden (D-OR) are also involved in creating a bill that extends the reach of the MORE Act.
In June, Senators Booker, Wyden and Schumer released a public draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, as promised.
In response, Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the DPA said that their goal has always been to make the reform bill inclusive and comprehensive to all communities.
She said, “…work remains to ensure justice does not fall short. To our dismay, the Senate draft contains exclusionary language that ended up getting added to the House-passed MORE Act last year that would continue to subject federal employees to drug testing and deny certain individuals—who have already paid the highest price—the opportunity to expunge their records,” indicating that the bill is still grounded in divisive ideas.
She further says that for the bill to end the marijuana prohibition and repair the harm done in the past, “We cannot continue to make room for some to be left out because of laws that were unjust and racist to begin with.” She calls on the House to remove the aforementioned exclusionary language before the bill introduction and then quickly pass the bill.
As of 2020, public support for marijuana legalization in America is at 68 percent. Thirty-five of fifty states along with the District of Columbia allow legal access to medical marijuana. Sixteen of 50 states allow access for “adult use” but as of now only two states have passed the legalization of marijuana (waiting to take effect).
Still, marijuana prohibition is responsible for almost a million arrests across the country each year. There is a disproportionate effect on Black and Brown people, where Black people are four times more likely to be arrested if fond to be in possession of marijuana.
This statistic remains, despite the fact that white people have equal rates of consumption. Some cases have also called for deportation.