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house Bill H.R. 3884

Should Marijuana Be Federally Decriminalized & Past Cannabis Crimes Expunged?

Argument in favor

Marijuana decriminalization with a criminal justice reform component is needed to address the negative impact of the War on Drugs on minority communities and create economic opportunity by ending the federal prohibition.

David's Opinion
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11/22/2019
If anyone thinks that making pot illegal did anything to curb use, they are deluded. It was and is easier to get than alcohol. It just filled up our for-profit prisons. Let it be legalized and regulated, just like booze. The politicians will be falling all over themselves with the new found pot of tax revenue (I live in Colorado, it will NEVER be criminalized again with all the new revenue). If done correctly with minimal regulation, it will kill off the black market. Just makes sense.
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Lisa's Opinion
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11/22/2019
The failed war on drugs is over. We are 40+ years behind on this legislation.
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Ben's Opinion
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11/22/2019
Way to many people in prison for such a minuscule crime yet hardly any drunk drivers. Does this sound right to you?
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Argument opposed

Marijuana is an addictive substance, and legalizing it will only increase its use. Rather than legalizing marijuana, we should instead look for ways to address the reasons for people’s marijuana use.

Brent's Opinion
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11/22/2019
While I strongly favor the legalization of marijuana, with restrictions similar to alcohol, this is not the right bill to do it. Particularly the bill will "Provide non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession." there is no such protection for alcohol or tobacco and it could impede the legitimate needs of employers to set safety standards for their workforce.
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John's Opinion
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11/23/2019
I support removing marijuana from Class 1 controlled substances and expunging the records of people with past offenses. I disagree with the sections of this bill which would support marijuana production and businesses. I'm still concerned about the negative effects of marijuana on the developing brain through late adolescence (24 or 25 years old). I support the legalization of medical marijuana if we can prevent its being misused as a simple pass for recreational use.
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David's Opinion
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11/22/2019
Anyone who thinks that marijuana has no more impact on a person’s mind than a Hershey bar is delusional. Congress has already proved to be corrupt and delusional with this Trump witch hunt. The people of this country must stand against any act that encourages or supports drug use. I had a smart friend in college used marijuana. He barely graduated and was a mindless idiot.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedJuly 23rd, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 3884?

This bill — the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 — would provide for comprehensive marijuana reform. At a high level, it would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and require resentencing and expungement of prior marijuana-related convictions. A detailed breakdown of its various provisions can be found below.

Specifically, this bill would: 

  • Decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act.
  • Require resentencing and expungement of prior marijuana-related convictions and require courts to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision. 
  • Authorize the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund with three grant programs: 1) a Community Reinvestment Program to provide services (such as job training, re-entry services, legal aid, youth recreation, mentoring, substance use treatment, and literacy programs) to those most adversely affected by the War on Drugs; 2) a Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program to provide loans to help small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and 3) an Equitable Licensing Grant Program to provide funds for programs that reduce barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for those most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. 
  • Open up Small Business Administration (SBA) funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers. 
  • Provide non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession.
  • Prohibit the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on marijuana use or possession or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
  • Provide that marijuana use or possession of a prior conviction for a marijuana offense won’t have any adverse impact under immigration laws. 
  • Require the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to collect data on the marijuana industry’s demographics to help ensure that people of color and the economically disadvantaged are participating in the marijuana industry.

Impact

Individuals who would use marijuana; individuals with marijuana-related convictions and offenses on their records; marijuana legalization; marijuana scheduling under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA); marijuana offenses’ impact on immigration laws; SBA funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers; imposition of a 5% sales tax on marijuana to fund an opportunity trust fund; and the BLS.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3884

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthHouse Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) introduced this bill to enact comprehensive marijuana reform and address historic injustices in the application of marijuana-related offenses: 

“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 disproportionally 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. I’m proud to sponsor the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs. I want to acknowledge the partnership in developing this legislation with my colleagues, Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, as well as the contributions of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Nydia Velazquez.”

In remarks at this bill’s markup, Rep. Nadler added: 

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating users at the federal level is unwise and unjust… Federal action on this issue would follow growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable. Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Eleven 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 minority communities… 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 minorities, particularly African-Americans and 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, where—unfairly and unjustifiably—it has remained ever since. As a consequence, thousands of individuals—overwhelmingly people of color—have been subjected, by the federal government, to unjust prison sentences for marijuana offenses. This needs to stop.That is why we are taking action today… [A]pplying 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 bill today."

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-NY), sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion and a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, says

“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 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. I am thrilled to work with Chairman Nadler on this timely and important step toward racial and economic justice.”

The Drug Policy Alliance is among the civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups that supports this bill. Its policy coordinator, Queen Adesuyi, says: 

“The disproportionate rates of marijuana arrests and incarceration faced by low-income communities and communities of color only scratch the surface of the devastation that prohibition has caused. Marijuana convictions have disrupted people’s lives -- from one’s ability to secure or maintain employment, housing, funds for education, a valid driver’s license to the ability to keep one’s kids or remain in this country for noncitizens. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act ends prohibition in a way that centers communities most impacted by criminalization with reform that is as comprehensive as the decades of harm inflicted.”

The House Democratic caucus is divided on how best to enact marijuana reform. This bill is one of the most sweeping proposals, whereas other legislation is more targeted, emphasizing regulatory issues or the financial ramifications of banking.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who was one of two House Judiciary Committee Republicans who voted in favor of this bill during its committee markup, argues, “We are not rushing; we are being dragged forward by our constituents.” However, he also warns that some of this bill’s attempts to redress damage from the War on Drugs could be too extreme for conservatives.

However, Democrats insist that those measures are essential. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) notes that the incarcerated population in America has jumped from 350,000 at the start of the War on Drugs to 2.2 million now, disproportionately jailing black and Latino people. As an example, he cited New York, the “marijuana arrest capital of the world,” where 80% of people busted on minor possessions were black or Latino. With this in mind, he said: 

“It can’t be socially acceptable behavior in some communities that tend to be more affluent, regardless of race, and criminal in other communities that tend to be predominately black and Latino, all across the country and in New York City. It’s very important for the federal government to send a different message as it relates to marijuana."

Most House Judiciary Committee Republicans objected to this bill when their committee considered, and ultimately passed, it. Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) called it “nearly devoid of bipartisan support,” and another committee member, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), expressed pessimism about this bill’s chances in the Senate

"I don't think a majority of the Republicans will support this bill. It is even less likely that the Senate would take it up. Therefore, I would just suggest that we deal with other bills that we can get a much larger bipartisan support from."

In December 2018, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters he doesn’t “have any plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana” despite his approval of a farm bill legalizing hemp (a major crop in his home state of Kentucky) last year.

Those who oppose marijuana legalization contend that it would increase the number of car accidents involving marjuana users, lead to more people using stronger and more addictive drugs, encourage more people to use marijuana, not benefit society or individuals much, and/or harm people. Writing in HuffPost in 2017, Dr. Deni Carise, a nationally recognized expert in addiction treatment and Chief Scientific Officer at Recovery Centers of America, wrote

“[M]arijuana is addictive. Yes, less addictive than heroin or cocaine, but addictive nonetheless. I see it day-in and day-out in my field of addiction treatment, and I hear the stories from clients and families alike. Argue if you will, but behind you stands a long line of families whose lives have been completely upturned from the drug. And the big business of marijuana will need to continue to seek new and more frequent users… [W]hat we really need to do as a society is to deal with the reasons why we want to get high in the first place. Is it anxiety? Depression? Let’s treat these symptoms with appropriate therapy, provide adequate mental health coverage, so that one does not have to use mind-altering substances to get by. Then, we will have truly succeeded at making progress. Habitual drug use is not going to resolve our problems. The bottom line is that we have enough issues in this country these days. This country doesn’t need another legal intoxicant. Haven’t we learned enough with alcohol and tobacco?”

President Trump’s views on marijuana legalization are murky. In April 2019, President Trump said he supported legislation that would protect legal marijuana activities in states that have approved them. However, he has also openly opposed pro-legalization legislation. According to an August 2019 statement from then-Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, he even went so far as to donate part of his 2019 presidential salary to pay for a promotional campaign the negative effects of marijuana use.

Additionally, in a position paper, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy says marijuana “has a high abuse potential and no approved therapeutic use.” Citing concerns about child developmental impacts, mental health problems, and marijuana’s potential as a gateway to harder drugs, the position paper concludes that substance use prevention should be prioritized over legalization. 

This legislation passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 24-10 vote (all Democrats voted in favor, and two Republicans, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) joined them) on November 20, 2019, with the support of 57 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 56 Democrats and one Republican. It has also been introduced in seven other House committee, none of which have yet taken action on it. Its chances in the Senate are even slimmer. Rep. Nadler himself says he assumes the Senate won’t accept this bill “as is,” but doesn’t agree with the assertion that the Senate won’t take this bill.

This bill’s Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), has five Democratic Senate cosponsors.

This legislation is supported by a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress, 4thMVMT, ACLU, California Minority Alliance, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). 


Of NoteTo date, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana and 11 states have legalized recreational marijuana use. A May 2019 Gallup poll found that 64% of respondents supported marijuana legalization. While marijuana legalization can be an economic boon to communities, critics say minorities are being left out. Maritza Perez, senior policy analyst for criminal justice reform at the Center for American Progress (which supports this bill), says

“We think it’s deeply unfair that now people are making so much money and so much wealth being created from regulated marijuana markets when historically people of color and low-income people have bore the brunt of drug enforcement policy in this country.”

Nearly all of the major candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have adopted pro-legalization stances. Some of those Democrats have introduced other marijuana bills this Congress, including: 

During the November 20, 2019 Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Booker criticized former Vice President Joe Biden, who had recently made statements opposing marijuana legalization, saying, “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.” Earlier, Biden also said “that there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it (marijuana) a gateway drug.” Sen. Booker argued that Biden’s stance illustrates how out of touch he is with minority communities, saying

“This week I hear [Biden] literally say that I don’t think we should legalize marijuana. I thought you might’ve been high when you said it. Marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people, and the war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people. There are people in Congress right now that admit to smoking marijuana while there are people—our kids—are in jail right now for those drug crimes.”

In response, Biden said, “I think that we should decriminalize marijuana, period, and I think anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, can be zeroed out. But I do think it makes sense, based on data, that we should study what the long-term effects are for use of marijuana. That’s all it is.”


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Nastasic)

AKA

Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019

Official Title

To decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses, and for other purposes.

    If anyone thinks that making pot illegal did anything to curb use, they are deluded. It was and is easier to get than alcohol. It just filled up our for-profit prisons. Let it be legalized and regulated, just like booze. The politicians will be falling all over themselves with the new found pot of tax revenue (I live in Colorado, it will NEVER be criminalized again with all the new revenue). If done correctly with minimal regulation, it will kill off the black market. Just makes sense.
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    Remove marijuana from schedule one. Marijuana does not belong in the same classification as meth and other dangerous drugs.
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    Way to many people in prison for such a minuscule crime yet hardly any drunk drivers. Does this sound right to you?
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    The failed war on drugs is over. We are 40+ years behind on this legislation.
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    Decrimializing marijuana will allow many people in jail to be released and get back into society. Then, we need to "lose the box" on applications asking for past criminal charges. They paid the price, now get them a job and make them a vital part of our communities! Thank you!
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    Marijuana should 100% be de-scheduled. The agriculture industry could do much more. Our states could do more with medical and recreational marijuana.
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    There’s numerous reasons to legalize. First marijuana is much safer than nearly any other psychoactive substance we know of. With zero deaths and no evidence to suggest it poses any threat to the general population, the criminalization of it and disproportionate ethnicities of those arrested should be appalling to the general public, and it is. Most major polls consistently show that upwards of 70 percent of Americans support the decriminalization of marijuana. Another point to be made is that the current state of criminalization even harms the law abiding citizen. In many circumstances you could be pulled over by an officer and if a passenger in your car has marijuana in their possession that charge is on you. Another way it harms the average citizen is that with weed illegal and substances like alcohol and nicotine legal they may turn to the more harmful legal substances, in turn harming themselves. There’s many many more points to be made (I didn’t even touch on the economics), but the most critical thing is this. If you stand in the way of what is right and vote against this bill you are at fault for the ruined lives of not only those wrongfully arrested and prosecuted, but their absence in the lives of their loved ones.
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    Should have been done long before now.
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    Decriminalization of marijuana is long overdue. It was part of the 'war on drugs campaign' and designed to incarcerate people of color at a disproportionate rate. Along with other criminal justice reforms, we needs to eliminate similar laws and the discriminatory application of all laws.
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    Marijuana is a healing herb. Proved to be useful for Anxiety, Depression, PTSD as well as physical ailments. It should definitely be decriminalized, and then LEGALIZED at the Federal Level. Expunge all previous charges for marijuana use. There are good people rotting in a jail cell for no reason.
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    While I strongly favor the legalization of marijuana, with restrictions similar to alcohol, this is not the right bill to do it. Particularly the bill will "Provide non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession." there is no such protection for alcohol or tobacco and it could impede the legitimate needs of employers to set safety standards for their workforce.
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    Cannabis is a solution to a plethora of problems. It should never have been prohibited and now is the time to remedy that.
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    This is a major opportunity for the state of Texas to benefit from this bill and you should support this bill. Re-elections votes will definitely reflect your vote on this one as our public servants. So, please do the right thing and choose the people over the party or your own conservatism.
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    This bill will help countless people who have been discriminated against due to the War on Drugs, and there is an abundance of statistics that show marijuana is actually much better for the general public than alcohol
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    https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomangell/2019/11/16/vote-to-federally-legalize-marijuana-planned-in-congress/
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    Anyone who thinks that marijuana has no more impact on a person’s mind than a Hershey bar is delusional. Congress has already proved to be corrupt and delusional with this Trump witch hunt. The people of this country must stand against any act that encourages or supports drug use. I had a smart friend in college used marijuana. He barely graduated and was a mindless idiot.
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    NO. Too many studies show marijuana damages the developing brain, critical planning, judgment, decision making, personality, these are the last areas to fully develop around 25 years of age. In immature teens the endocannabinoid system this compromises neurodevelopment, stress response and emotional control. Teens have a hard enough time trying to avoid common problems and to compound these with a drug that will guarantee brain function loss is crazy. To legalize marijuana will make it easier for teens to get it. The democrats are big on protecting us from ourselves, like limiting consumption of sugar and sizes of our drinks. This is the democrats chance to make money, 5% tax to go into a Opportunity Trust Fund. Whoo! Whose hand will be in that till? Job training for the substance abused that will be legally getting drugs. If they can’t get/keep a job now, what kind of training will that be? Loans for small businesses in marijuana industry for the socially economically disadvantaged? This will make it easier for the drug dealers to sell where they are already selling. GREAT IDEA!!!
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    Marijuana or any drug for that matter should be illegal. I am seeing how this impacts the youth of the United States of America. Any drug is stopping our young minds from being at their performance at any level. It makes some of my classmates and friends worry about that instead of school. My school now has to monitor how much we go to the bathroom because students are vaping and doing whatever else in the bathroom with drugs. Also, some of them are just friends with their group because of drugs. Drugs cause loss of friends, trust, relationships, etc. Do you remember how big of a deal it was to do drugs in the late 90s through the early 2000s? It is even worse now. It is getting easier and easier to buy and they are targeting us. Do you guys and gals really want us to help improve the U.S. by going to college? Well, from my point of view as a high school senior, drugs do the exact opposite.
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    Criminalization of marijuana was out of sheer fear. Because of that fear, hundreds of thousands of people have spent too many years of their precious lives in prison or jail. It’s time to look at marijuana differently. There are so many uses for it. The most important being helping people medically just watch one person suffering from the pain of cancer, then watch what happens after using marijuana. We need to restore dignity to being ill. Marijuana does this!
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    There simply isn't enough details in this Bill. We often get passed Bills that are just headline grabbers. Let's not pass a Bill and figure out the details later. Figure out the details NOW, then vote on a Bill.
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