Demanding Marijuana Justice on the Federal Level

Our federal leaders are getting closer than ever to ending marijuana prohibition. In every legislative session, the status quo shifts, and more legislators are realizing that to be on the right side of history- and to keep their jobs- they must support marijuana policy reform. We made another step forward this week as our House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing on “Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform.” In the midst of this milestone, Advocacy Fellow Hannah Procell is reflecting on the hard work to achieve federal legalization coming from advocacy organizations based here in D.C. Read on about our work and do your part by sending a message to your legislators to support an end to marijuana prohibition.

Drug policy reform organizations, human and civil rights organizations, and legislators all came together to seize our opportunity. The Marijuana Justice Coalition was formally announced this week, but we began our collective conversations around federal reform in the 115th Congress in August. We gathered together in confidence that the Democrats would win back a majority in the House of Representatives and therefore, policy reformers would have a key opportunity to frame federal legalization. We asked ourselves: “If we could write our ideal framework to end marijuana prohibition, what would it say? How would U.S. Congress set the standard for marijuana policy?”

For months we met amongst ourselves and with key Congressional ranking members, forming our recommendations to legislators about crucial policy priorities for marijuana legalization. The Marijuana Justice Coalition has published our Statement of Principles on Federal Marijuana Reform. As leaders in policy reform, we must set high expectations. The coalition looked beyond the first step of descheduling and removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

We are calling for provisions to expunge previous and resentence existing convictions and prison sentences being served for marijuana-related offenses. We call for the protection of immigrants from deportation when marijuana is the only “crime” involved in their case. We call for utilizing marijuana tax revenue to reinvest in individuals and communities most impacted by the war on drugs, particularly through programming which helps eliminate the collateral harms of marijuana prohibition, especially for individuals with systemic and structural barriers to employment and/or living in high-poverty communities. In order to achieve meaningful equity in the industry, we call for marijuana tax revenue to be directed to support entrepreneurs from communities directly impacted by the War on Drugs. It is possible to provide such entrepreneurs with requisite capital to develop cannabis businesses, and encourage emerging licensing programs to be inclusive and reflective of their communities.

Such are the tenets of true reparative justice and marijuana policy reform: criminal justice reform and resentencing, immigrant protection, community reinvestment, and an achievable framework for meaningful equity programs. We are defining our future of marijuana policy in the United States. But we cannot create this future without the people, without you. YOU must demand these policies from your leaders in Congress so we can win this fight.