NAACP, ACLU Join Massive Effort to Push Congress to Legalize Weed
A 100-member coalition is pressuring Congress to pass a cannabis legalization bill that specifically focuses on correcting the racially-biased damage caused by the War on Drugs.
Published on August 2, 2019

A group of likeminded social and political organizations has formed with the goal of pressuring the government to pass cannabis reform laws that directly address the lingering damage caused by prohibition. 

According to a Forbes report by Tom Angell, the 100 member coalition was spearheaded by the public policy think tank the Center for American Progress (CAP) and co-signed by the NAACP, ACLU, National Immigration Justice Network, Human Rights Watch, and more. Together, they sent a sternly-worded letter to House leadership supporting the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill introduced in the House judiciary committee last month.

“The MORE Act’s targeted programs will serve to empower historically underserved communities that bore this nation’s drug war," the letter reads. "It will also reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system and protect people from unequal marijuana enforcement. Justice requires that marijuana reform policy in Congress first de-schedule and repair past harms."

Authored by Democratic New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the MORE Act would legalize cannabis nationwide, set up a system to expunge existing marijuana charges, and create a five percent legal weed sales tax that would be directed, in part, to reinvest in communities most damaged by the War on Drugs. The sales tax revenue would go towards industry job training programs, legal aid, and small business loans.

“Many of the communities served and represented by the NAACP have been among the hardest hit by our nation’s outdated and misguided marijuana laws," Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, told Forbes. "From robbing us of the talent and promise of our young people, to the breaking-up of families, to reabsorbing returning citizens who cannot take full advantage of many of the federal services offered to other Americans, our communities feel the urgency of enacting this legislation. Thus, we have urged the Congress to act as quickly as possible to correct the flaws in the current law and move towards beginning to rectify decades of unnecessary harshness."

Federal lawmakers have recently increased their focus on broad, overarching marijuana law reform. In addition to Nadler’s MORE Act, Democratic presidential hopeful Corey Booker has gained support for his similarly focused Marijuana Justice Act, while Senate Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jefferies have introduced their own descheduling bill, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act.

In their letter to Congress, the coalition described the MORE Act as the most comprehensive piece of cannabis legislation, and encouraged legislators to pass the bill as quickly as possible. As of press time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet responded to the letter.

“Communities of color have been on the frontlines of this country’s drug war and should not have to continue waiting for a measure of justice,” Maritza Perez, senior policy analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at CAP, told Forbes. “Especially while others are generating extraordinary wealth for marijuana activity that sent Black and Latinx individuals to prison." 

You can read the letter sent to Congress in its entirety at Marijuana Moment.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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