The National Cannabis Policy Summit on September 10 featured nearly five hours of important panel discussions about a variety of subjects pertaining to marijuana, with a strong focus on minorities in cannabis.
Producer Caroline Phillips and Laila Makled saved the best for last: A five-minute statement by New York's Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Cue to the 4:38:00 mark in the event video above. Here's what the Democratic Congressman had to say:
"The failed War on Drugs has had devastating consequences, particularly as it relates to people of color, throughout the land. When Richard Nixon launched the failed War on Drugs in 1971 when he declared drug abuse Public Enemy No. 1, there were less than 350,000 people incarcerated in America. Today there are 2.2 million, disproportionately Black, Latino and low income... locked up for non-violent drug offenses.
"Because of the failed War on Drugs we incarcerate more people in the United States than any other country in the world - on a per capita basis it's more than Russia and China combined. That is a stain on our democracy. One of the reasons the War on Drugs has gone on so long is because of the obsessive criminalization of cannabis and marijuana. It has devastated lives, devastated families and devastated communities. That has been the case here in New York City, which for a long period of time was the marijuana arrest capitol of the world, disproportionately enforced in Black and Latino communities throughout the Big Apple, depriving people of the ability to robustly pursue the American Dream because of the Scarlet Letter of criminalization wrapped around their necks. Enough!
"One of the ways in which we can turn this around is to pass the MORE Act in the House this month, which is what we are going to do. We will deschedule marijuana at the federal level and begin the process of legalizing it throughout the land. We must also engage in reparative justice so those who have been hurt by the failed War on Drugs generally and the criminalization of marijuana in particular will have a pathway towards pursuing the American Dream in a robust way, including and not limited to participating in the cannabis economy.
"That is what we are commited to doing in Washington... to right the wrongs of injustice that date all the way back to the 1930s when the targeting of marijuana first began with a particularly tinged racial lens, and it has continued to this very day.
"The great John Lewis, who I had an opportunity to serve with in the United States Congress, would often say to us: 'When you see something wrong, find a way to get in the way.' Keep the faith. Keep your eyes on the prize. Never give in. Get into some good trouble... We've come a long way. We still have a ways to go. But we will get there together."
More on the MORE Act
Introduced in 2019 by Rep. Gerald Nadler in the House and by Sen. Kamala Harris in the Senate, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act “aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring re-sentencing and expungement of prior convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education and overall quality of life. Immigrants will also benefit from the Act, as they will no longer be subject to deportation or citizenship denial based on even a minor marijuana offense. It also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.”
Highlights of the MORE Act include removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, expunging prior convictions, creating an Opportunity Trust Fund, providing non-discrimination protections and ensuring that “people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.”
The House version (HR 3884) is expected to have a floor the week of September 21. NORML reports "the bill continues to gain traction with an increase in the number of Republican commitments to vote yes and Democratic cosponsors." It has more than 100 sponsors (including Jeffries) and has received endorsements from ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, NAACP, NORML and NOW.
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