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US Congress Should End Marijuana Prohibition

Widely Supported Bill Key to Reforming Racist Policies, Investing in Communities

© 2016 Brian Stauffer for Human Rights Watch

A bill that would end federal marijuana prohibition represents a real opportunity to address racial justice and equity in the US policing and criminal legal system.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, and begin to repair the harm marijuana prohibition has caused to people of color by establishing social equity programs to reinvest in communities. It would also provide for resentencing and expungement for those with federal marijuana convictions.

The bill was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in November 2019, and it is now up to the US House of Representatives’ leadership to schedule the bill for a vote.

The bill has bipartisan support in the House and widespread support from civil and human rights organizations. This month, members of the Marijuana Justice Coalition and over 120 organizations wrote to the US House leadership urging a vote on the bill, stating that the national discussion around unjust law enforcement, as well as Covid-19, means marijuana reform “is more relevant and more pressing than ever before.”

The bill also has support among likely voters in the 2020 US elections, according to a recent national poll, where nearly two-thirds of respondents stated that police should stop arresting people for possessing marijuana for personal use and supported passage of the MORE Act.

Human Rights Watch has long documented the devastating toll of the war on drugs and how it discriminates against people of color. In 2016, research by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) showed that in the US, someone was arrested for drug possession for personal use every 25 seconds. Despite using drugs at similar rates as white people, Black adults were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for possession.

About half of these arrests involve marijuana possession, for which racial disparities remain acute. An April 2020 ACLU report found that in 2018, the most recent data they analyzed, Black people were 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.

Congress should advance this important piece of legislation to the House floor for a vote and pass the MORE Act.

To urge your congressional leaders to support the MORE Act visit:

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