Drug policy reform advocates and lawmakers celebrated on Wednesday after a key congressional committee approved a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition for the first time in history.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10, including two “aye” votes from Republican lawmakers, to advance the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is the bill’s sponsor.
The legislation would federally deschedule cannabis, provide expungement and resentencing relief and impose a five percent federal tax on marijuana sales to support investments in communities most harmed by the drug war. It would also protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.
Here’s how people are reacting to the bill’s historic passage.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD):
I thank @HouseJudiciary for marking up the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement Act today, an important bill to decriminalize marijuana & reassess convictions. This bill will help communities of color disproportionately hurt by our current marijuana laws.
— Steny Hoyer (@LeaderHoyer) November 20, 2019
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):
“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,” Nadler said in a statement. “While states have led the way in reform, our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. With the passage of the MORE Act today, the Judiciary Committee has taken long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs and to finally decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.”
Proud to announce that @HouseJudiciary just passed my MORE Act, which ends the federal prohibition of marijuana and enacts restorative justice for communities of color that continue to be devastated by our nation’s failed War on Drugs. #WeWantMORE pic.twitter.com/9FEn9DF9pq
— (((Rep. Nadler))) (@RepJerryNadler) November 20, 2019
🚨BREAKING🚨 The House Judiciary committee has passed 1st ever legislation to decriminalize marijuana & start repairing the damage of the misguided war on drugs. Will you sign my petition to show your support? #WeWantMORE https://t.co/O8E1xvpBkv
— (((Jerry Nadler))) (@JerryNadler) November 20, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA):
“As more states legalize marijuana, millions of Americans with marijuana-related convictions continue to face overwhelming barriers to jobs, education, and housing,” Harris said in a statement. “That is why we must act to remove the burden of marijuana convictions and make sure these individuals have the support needed to move forward. It is also critical that everyone — especially people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. This is a matter of racial and economic justice. I am grateful for Chairman Nadler’s partnership on this issue and for his leadership in moving this legislation forward. I look forward to the House of Representatives passing our legislation soon.”
Not only do we need to legalize marijuana at the federal level, but we have to do it right and bring justice to communities of color.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) November 20, 2019
While my colleagues in the House are working on impeaching our lawless president, they’re also legislating.
5 of my bills on marijuana legalization, Black maternal health, and public lands have passed House committees this week. The Senate should do its job and pass these bills.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) November 20, 2019
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ):
“After years of work in the Senate, our efforts to pair marijuana legalization with expungement and reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs have finally led us to today’s critical mark-up,” Booker said in a statement. “The war on drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, harmed job prospects and access to housing for our nation’s most vulnerable communities, and destroyed countless lives.”
“The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to advance this bill is a significant step toward righting these wrongs and healing the wounds of decades of injustice,” he said.
“This is a significant tipping point. The Committee passage of this bill is an important step towards reversing decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income individuals. These draconian laws have sacrificed critical resources, violated our values, destroyed families and communities, and failed to make us safer,” Booker added in a separate press release. “This legislation continues us down the path towards justice and I’m excited to see momentum growing around the movement to fix our nation’s broken drug laws.”
Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D):
It is time to legalize marijuana nationally – as we have done effectively in WA state for 6 years.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) November 20, 2019
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA):
“This is really a defining moment on so many fronts as it relates to cannabis reform,” Lee told Marijuana Moment in an interview prior to the vote. “I have to salute and thank Chairman Nadler for being bold and for living up to his commitment and for making sure that this is a comprehensive bill that will address the different aspects of these very complicated issues.”
🚨 BREAKING: The MORE Act just passed out of committee! This is a HUGE step forward in righting the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs. Let’s keep up the fight and get this passed on the floor! #WeWantMORE https://t.co/r7cVqWGX6l
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) November 20, 2019
This critical bill will help right the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs by expunging criminal convictions, reinvesting in communities of color through restorative justice, and promoting equitable participation in the legal marijuana industry. https://t.co/XLm2O0Gekb
— Barbara Lee (@BLeeForCongress) November 20, 2019
“For those who have been victimized by these unjust laws, I want to just say to them that we have to keep optimistic, keep hope alive and just know that their members of Congress worked to make sure that justice is served.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) November 20, 2019
This vote was a vote for progressive reform, for racial justice, for personal freedom, for economic opportunity, and for better health. #WeWantMORE
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) November 20, 2019
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO):
I’m glad @HouseJudiciary is marking up the #MOREAct today. This comprehensive legislation will help modernize our federal cannabis policies, ensure policies are fair, equitable & inclusive, and invest in local communities. #WeWantMORE https://t.co/rqYynSeXZr
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) November 20, 2019
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI):
Today, the House Judiciary Committee voted to pass H.R.3884, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which I introduced with Chair Jerry Nadler (NY-10). The bill passed with a bipartisan vote, 24-10, and now awaits consideration by the full House.
— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) November 20, 2019
Congress must pass this bill so that we can begin to help heal the wounds caused by the failed war on drugs and move forward together.https://t.co/n4BMAH8a8p
— Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiPress) November 20, 2019
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA):
Today in @HouseJudiciary, we took an important step forward by passing the #MOREAct, to undo some of the devastating impacts of the war on drugs.#WA voters knew that in 2012 when they voted to decriminalize cannabis, and the success we’ve enjoyed could be enjoyed nationwide. pic.twitter.com/hm04ruu6GV
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) November 21, 2019
Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA):
I’m proud to have voted to take the first step in federally descheduling cannabis.
The MORE Act will right the wrongs of the drug war & move us forward.
It’s time to invest in medical cannabis & allow consenting adults to make their own decisions.
Next stop, the House Floor. https://t.co/TpunKn6Qfe
— Rep. Lou Correa (@RepLouCorrea) November 20, 2019
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN):
This critical bill works to right the wrongs of the failed and racist War on Drugs by expunging criminal convictions, reinvesting in communities of color, decriminalizing #marijuana & promoting equitable participation in the cannabis industry. #WeWantMore
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) November 20, 2019
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA):
Today’s @HouseJudiciary Committee’s markup of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement Act is significant. As states like California continue to modernize how we regulate cannabis, Congress needs to ensure that our policies are fair, equitable & inclusive. #WeWantMORE pic.twitter.com/SA5Wffsuvf
— Rep. Ted Lieu (@RepTedLieu) November 20, 2019
Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA):
FACT: Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing, and the ability to vote.
I look forward to the passage of this bill on the House floor.
— Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) November 20, 2019
Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA):
2/ The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (HR 3884) is comprehensive legislation to decriminalize marijuana.
— Dwight Evans (@RepDwightEvans) November 20, 2019
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME):
“Today’s vote is a historic step toward setting a federal cannabis policy that works in the 21st century. Eleven states including Maine have already legalized marijuana even though it remains illegal under federal law. The MORE Act will remove a major hurdle for states by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act list. It will also provide incentives for this industry to grow and succeed with new grant programs,” Pingree said in a press release. “I’m especially pleased that this legislation will right the wrongs of the misguided ‘war on drugs’ which has for decades disproportionally harmed disadvantaged communities and communities of color. The MORE Act will reassess marijuana convictions, create programs for restorative justice, and promote equal participation in the legal marijuana industry.”
Today @HouseJudiciary will vote on the #MOREAct which would decriminalize marijuana, reassess pot convictions, and support small businesses. I’m proud to be a cosponsor of this common sense bill. It’s time to bring federal cannabis policies into the 21st century.
— Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) November 20, 2019
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI):
Our cannabis policy is reflective of the failures of our past.
Rooted in a racist war on drugs targeting communities of color—it’s time we right our wrongs.
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) November 20, 2019
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal:
“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” Strekal said. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most.”
HISTORY MADE: The MORE Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a 24-10 bipartisan vote. Next stop the House floor! Thanks to all of you who sent nearly 60,000 letters in the last few days. #WeDeserveMORE #MakeHistory #WeDidIt #Onward #EndingProhibition pic.twitter.com/CKCMoRxo8a
— NORML (@NORML) November 20, 2019
“In 2018 alone, over 663,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana-related crimes, a three-year high,” he said. “Now that Chairman Nadler has moved the MORE Act through committee, it is time for the full House to vote and have every member of Congress show their constituents which side of history they stand on.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri:
“This is a truly historic moment in our nation’s political history,” Altieri said. “For the first time, a Congressional committee has approved far-reaching legislation to not just put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, but to address the countless harms our prohibitionist policies have wrought, notable on communities of color and other marginalized groups.”
“Opposition to our failed war on marijuana has reached a boiling point with over two-thirds of all Americans, including majorities of all political persuasions, now supporting legalization,” he said. “Congress should respect the will of the people and promptly approve the MORE Act and close this dark chapter of failed public policy.”
Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno:
“With today’s mark-up of the MORE Act, the United States is coming one step closer to ending the devastating harms of marijuana prohibition, which have fallen so heavily on Black and Brown people,” Sánchez-Moreno said.
“This legislation won’t make up for the full scale of harm that prohibition has caused to its victims. It’s not going to return anyone their lost dreams, time lost at the mercy of the criminal justice system; or the years spent away from their families,” she said. “But this legislation is the closest we’ve come yet to not only ending those harms at the federal level, but also beginning to repair them. Now it’s up to Congress to do the right thing and swiftly pass the bill to ensure justice is not delayed a moment longer.”
Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine:
“This committee vote is a historic step forward for cannabis policy reform at the federal level,” Levine said. The MORE Act would ensure cannabis consumers and businesses are treated fairly under the law. It would also bolster state and industry efforts to promote diversity within the cannabis business community, while helping communities and individuals adversely impacted by the war on drugs.”
The House Judiciary just made history, casting the first-ever congressional vote in favor of ending cannabis prohibition! Help keep the momentum going — tell your lawmakers to support the MORE Act! Take action now and urge others to do the same! https://t.co/wymUGkdoHg
— Cannabis Trade Federation (@CanTradeFed) November 20, 2019
“A solid majority of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition, and we’re finally seeing that reflected in a vote on Capitol Hill. These votes demonstrate the broad bipartisan support that exists in Congress for allowing states to determine their own cannabis policies,” he said. “There appears to be a consensus among both parties that the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws is untenable and needs to be resolved. We encourage our allies in the Democratic and Republican parties come together to find a bipartisan path forward and pass a law this Congress.”
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association:
“Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered,” Smith said. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of advocates and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, we’ve seen more progress in this Congress than ever before.”
Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered. https://t.co/cdMaNAKHfd
— Aaron Smith (@FAaronSmith) November 20, 2019
“Supermajority public support for legalization, increasing recognition of the devastating impacts of prohibition on marginalized communities and people of color, and the undeniable success of state cannabis programs throughout the country are all helping to build momentum for comprehensive change in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Americans for Safe Access Interim Director Debbie Churgai:
“This groundbreaking legislation would eliminate barriers to cannabis research and provide access for patients throughout the entire country,” Churgai said. “It is time our federal government steps up to provide relief so that patients everywhere can medicate without fear of losing any of their civil rights and protections, including while in federal housing or healthcare settings, such as hospices.”
— Americans4SafeAccess (@SafeAccess) November 20, 2019
Maritza Perez, senior policy analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress:
“We commend Chairman Nadler, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and the House Judiciary Committee for voting the MORE Act out of committee today,” Perez said. “Along with the Marijuana Justice Coalition, CAP has called on Congress to enact marijuana legalization legislation centered on justice reform and equity. We are proud of the milestone reached today and ask that this bill now move swiftly to the House floor for a vote.”
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Vanita Gupta:
Very big deal. MORE Act passes out of @HouseJudiciary with bipartisan support.
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) November 20, 2019
Prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana:
Today, the U.S House Judiciary Committee will hold a vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill to federally legalize, commercialize, and tax the use of marijuana.
— SAM (@learnaboutsam) November 20, 2019
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.