Thursday, September 17, 2020

Democratic Party Moving to Expand Freedom to Use Cannabis & End the War on Drugs

 Cannabis and Diabetes

In an historic move, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives will vote this legislative session to pass the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (the “MORE Act”). The Act removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Of the 99 co-sponsors in the House, 98 are Democrats.

The MORE Act effectively gets the federal government out of the marijuana policing business and will facilitate expungements for those victimized by its misguided marijuana criminalization policy. Instead, the issue would rest with state governments.

States can more democratically reflect local cultural norms and determine if relatively harmless substances such as cannabis should suffer prohibition with all of its implications in terms of liberty, constricted commerce and providing black-market profits to fuel organized crime. Marijuana consumption totals over $50 billion and can generate substantial job growth.

If enacted, the MORE Act would also tax cannabis at 5% and reinvest the proceeds into the communities that suffered disproportionately from the War on Drugs. That could provide billions for communities of color across the nation to spur growth and development. The Act even permits the Small Business Administration to support marijuana businesses.

The Democrats also approved a similar provision in their party platform for 2020:

Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs. Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level. We will support legalization of medical marijuana and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use. The Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level. All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged. (p. 37).

The party platform also favors diversion and treatment instead of incarceration for all drug offenses. Consequently, the MORE Act can very well constitute just the opening round in a more comprehensive unwinding of the failed War on Drugs.

Joe Biden fully supports this bold effort to finally reform marijuana laws as his campaign website makes clear: Biden believes no one should be in jail because of cannabis use. As president, he will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions.” Biden further supports a general armistice in the War on Drugs, as he seeks to “[e]nd all incarceration for drug use alone and instead divert individuals to drug courts and treatment.” Biden, in short, promises to end the War on Drugs too.

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris introduced and sponsored the MORE Act in the Senate. That bill boasts seven Democratic co-sponsors (and zero GOP co-sponsors). She stated in her recent book that “it’s past time we [dismantle] the failed war on drugs—starting with legalizing marijuana.”

In 2020, the War on Drugs finally exhausted itself, and the racial injustice that inherently accompanies it displayed itself in the police brutality that too often victimizes communities of color. It always operated as an assault on communities of color and never actually impacted wealthy white neighborhoods where drug consumption ran high. More specifically, according to a recent study: “a Black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person even though Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates.” Authorities do not systematically collect data regarding arrests of Latinos but all available evidence shows they too suffer disproportionate arrests. Thus, in California, our most populous state, Hispanics accounted for nearly 42% of [cannabis] arrests, followed by Blacks, at 22%, with whites at 21%.

Some 6.1 million citizens suffered arrest for marijuana possession over the past eight years. Such arrests can only diminish future potential and productivity. For example, students can lose financial aid eligibility for a drug conviction. A loss of future opportunities translates into future economic loss—a loss our entire society bears.

Any visitor to any prison knows that while we incarcerate more of our co-citizens than any other nation, non-whites make up the vast majority (70 percent) of prison populations. Latinos face three times the rate of incarceration as whites and African Americans face double the rate of Latinos.

The War on Drugs has devastated communities of color and destroyed human potential in such communities on a vast scale. The costs far outweigh any benefit and will only increase as our population becomes more diverse. Over two-thirds of US voters now want this criminal injustice ended. America can now finally reject such manifest injustice and racial brutality.

The Democratic party promises fundamental and dramatic change if it prevails in the election of 2020. Its party platform can provide leverage against every Democratic office holder. Its control of Congress will see the MORE Act passed and Joe Biden will sign it. That makes this election an historic opportunity to vote for expanded freedom and to end the racial injustice inherent in the War on Drugs.



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Although I would like to think that the MORE proposed bill will get enacted, I think that they, our legislative body, is not ready to accept such a progressive bill. Our public voting body may support more progressive legislation than ever before but our representatives and senators are not representative of the public voting body.

    According to Richard Fry from the Pew Research Center, Baby Boomers will likely be surpassed as the generational voting majority in the next few years. A bill this progressive has increased likelihood of enactment when younger politicians challenge the sitting politicians for their seats in Congress. I just don't believe Congress is ready, yet.

  3. Here is the position of a founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML):

    "For those for whom marijuana policy is the dominant issue, it is my personal opinion that a vote for the Democratic ticket is the obvious choice. While ending federal marijuana prohibition outright remains — at least at this time — a step too far for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to embrace, he has in fact moved in our direction significantly since the days of his vocal support for “the war on drugs.” Biden now says he supports decriminalizing the personal use of marijuana, expanding medical cannabis access, permitting states to set their own marijuana policies absent federal interference, and expunging minor marijuana conviction records. That is a good start for an old drug warrior."

    Keith Stroup, Legal Counsel NORML

  4. If we want influence in the new administration we need to build capital now. Flood the polls in November and remind the Dems. in January. Opportunity knocks but we must open the door!

  5. Since this post, Joe Biden has been elected president, and it is likely that the War on Drugs will begin to be dismantled. Although this act would be a step in the right direction, further combating the War on Drugs will require addressing mass incarceration and private prison corporations. As discussed in "Toward a Critical Corporate Law Pedagogy and Scholarship,” the private prison lobby that "hunts for 'new' crimes" and is "incentivized" to incarcerate as many people as possible further fuels this problem. Ending private prison corporate profitability will help to tackle the War on Drugs, since, as mentioned above, voters may not be ready to answer the door when "opportunity knocks."

  6. Ending the war on drugs is a great thing. Oregon just decriminalized the possession of all drugs and is instead using money to provide education and rehabilitation efforts. Now, it decriminalizing the use of drugs would be better, but Oregon is still a step ahead of other states. Too many people are incarcerated for drugs. If not labeled as a felon, they still have their future ruined. When someone serves time their lives are uprooted and often times sent in reverse. Then when they get out they often have to start over and with a worse hand dealt to them than before. Many laws and regulation then stop that individual from finding their true potential, especially when it comes to working. In Arkansas, a new law makes it hard for felons to get a licensed job, with a look back period of 5 years for some felons and an absolute bar for those of more serious crimes. In the drug context, that means that for 5 years after even possessing a drug, someone could potentially be barred from getting a licensed job. One of these jobs is a barber. Now how are we going to send someone to jail for possessing a drug, then allow them to cut hair in jail, but then bar them from doing the same thing when they get out. Because of the lack of job opportunities, recidivism rates are higher. When we stop putting up barriers to jobs for felons, then recidivism rates are lower. Lower recidivism rates means less crime and more people working. Its amazing how giving someone more freedom like this benefits all of society.

    - Damien Powell