On November 3, 2020, history was made in the American war on drugs. Drugs won. Oregon moved to decriminalize all drugs, even hard ones like meth and heroin as five other states moved to legalize cannabis in some form. Fast forward to this week and a top leader in the US House of Representatives announced that Congress will be holding a historic vote to end federal cannabis prohibition once and for all.
As the left and the right argue over which crazy old white man they want in the White House, laws — or rather the removal of laws — are being passed and proposed that increase the freedom of all Americans and deal a death blow to the racist and violent war on drugs.
Although the president-elect Joe Biden claimed he will “pursue modest marijuana reform” after he gets in the White House, these claims ring entirely hollow given his lust for locking brown and black people in cages in his past four decades in Washington. The prohibition of cannabis is a major tool used by the police state to go after communities of color and the poor and those who profit from preying on these groups will not give up that power easily which is why Biden has refused to even consider legalization.
However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed on Monday that marijuana legalization is still on the table before the presidential transition and will get a vote in December.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, was supposed to go up for a vote in September but was shelved by Democrats who were worried about how it would look to pass a legalization bill without passing another coronavirus relief package. Well, since that relief package never came, the MORE act is up for vote once more, and will take place next moth.
The MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). But that is not all. It would go one step further and seek to undo the horrific damage caused by the state’s war on this plant by expunging the records of those persecuted by cannabis prohibition.
The House will “vote on the MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis and expunge convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses that have prevented many Americans from getting jobs, applying for credit and loans, and accessing opportunities that make it possible to get ahead in our economy,” Hoyer said in a Dear Colleague letter to House members.
Federally descheduling cannabis would have a massive effect on bringing cannabis prohibition to its knees. It will also bring in revenue to cash strapped states who are going in debt amid COVID-19 lockdowns.
According to the legislation, the act would:
provide for expungement and resentencing of prior convictions and prevent federal agencies from using cannabis as a reason to deny access to benefits or citizenship status for immigrants.
It would also impose a five percent federal tax on the sales of marijuana products. Some of that revenue would be directed toward a new Opportunity Trust Fund aimed at supporting grant programs to provide job training and legal aid for people impacted by prohibition enforcement, loans for small marijuana businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals and efforts to minimize barriers to licensing and employment in the legal industry. Some of these efforts would be run through a new Cannabis Justice Office in the Department of Justice.
Even though the bill has bipartisan support in the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made his reefer madness stance clear and he will likely convince many in the Senate to oppose its passage.
Nevertheless, the symbolic nature of a bill passing the House to legalize cannabis on a national level cannot be understated. It is also important to point out that this legislation was presented last year and approved by a majority in the House Judiciary Committee. However, a vote by Congress has been delayed multiple times.
In August, however, the organization formerly known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), now known as Law Enforcement Action Partnership, along with the National Black Police Association, and Fair and Just Prosecution signed onto a revolutionary letter to Congress urging the federal government to legalize marijuana and expunge all past convictions relating to marijuana. This provided the impetus for the vote in December.
Those who continue denying the evidence, while continuing to lock people in cages for a plant, will ultimately be judged by history. They will not be the heroes they claim to be now. They will be remembered as the ones responsible for mass incarceration, fostering the police state, and dealing a near-death blow to freedom.
The time for change is now.