On Tuesday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced a proposal for a landmark bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
The “Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act,” is intended to support victims of the failed War on Drugs, by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. It specifically requires that people with marijuana convictions be resentenced or have their records expunged altogether.
“For decades, people of color have been disproportionately criminalized and excluded from economic opportunities due to the failed War on Drugs,” Sen. Harris said in an exclusive statement to theGrio.
“As the marijuana business becomes one of the fastest-growing industries in today’s economy, people of color should be the first in line to own businesses and get jobs. And prior convictions should not hinder them from getting on with their lives,” Harris continued.
The act also provides protection from discrimination for any formerly incarcerated people looking for public benefits, including housing. It also ensures marijuana charges or convictions aren’t used to adversely affect people under immigration laws (such as the way ICE has used marijuana charges to deport people previously).
Also notable is the bill’s commitment to supporting business owners from socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, in getting access to cannabis grants to open businesses.
Black owners and new cannabis entrepreneurs have had a particularly difficult time getting approval for licenses. Take for example the controversy in 2016 when none of the 15 licenses issued by Maryland’s Medical Marijuana Commission were given to Black or women owners.
“My bill is centered squarely on addressing the harm that discriminatory drug policies have caused Black and Brown communities, while also charting a more equitable path forward for all,” Sen. Harris told theGrio.
The bill also requires that 50 percent of tax revenue from the cannabis industry, be reinvested into job training, literacy, and youth mentoring for communities negatively impacted by the War On Drugs.
Sen. Harris teamed up with House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler to design the groundbreaking legislation.
According to The Huffington Post, this is the first time a House Judiciary Committee chair played a role in drafting this kind of bill.
Harris’ support for marijuana became national news after she told The Breakfast Club that she’d previously smoked weed and supported legalization in a February 12th interview this year, leading critics to attack her prosecution record.