Congressman Gerry Connolly Enewsletter
 
The MORE Act

Dear Neighbor,

I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe, healthy, and warm as we near the Holiday season. I can't stress enough the importance of continuing to avoid groups, wearing a mask, and regularly washing your hands. This will be a long winter, but we will make it through together. 

As negotiations continue on the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation, I want to take a moment today to briefly update you on another critical and historic bill that we proudly passed in the House today: the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

For far too long, this country has treated the possession of marijuana as a heinous crime punishable by manifestly unjust and disproportionate sentences. And these severe penalties are overwhelmingly levied against people of color, despite near equal rates of marijuana consumption among white and Black Americans. 

I am a proud cosponsor of The MORE Act, which would make three important and long-overdue changes to federal law: 

  • remove marijuana, or cannabis, from the list of federally controlled substances;
  • authorize the provision of resources, funded by an excise tax on marijuana, to address the needs of communities that have been seriously impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of communities of color in the burgeoning cannabis market; and
  • provide for the expungement of Federal marijuana convictions and arrests.
The debate over marijuana decriminalization is not new. Supporters tout the health benefits of cannabis and detractors worry cannabis is a gateway to heavier drug use and more dangerous crime. I am a firm believer in publicly policy that is driven by science and data. I believe significant scientific research is desperately needed in this debate in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes made during the War on Drugs when marijuana was foolishly classified as a Schedule I drug.

But I also believe that this is much more than a question of public health or law enforcement. The War on Drugs has devastated poor communities and communities of color for decades. It has crowded our jails and prisons with men and women of color who've been arrested and imprisoned for committing even the most minor, first-time marijuana offenses. 

In Virginia, Black people are 3.4 times more likely than white people to be arrested, for marijuana possession. And marijuana possession arrests accounted for 52 percent of all drug arrests in the Commonwealth. 

Reversing the harm caused by the War on Drugs is among the defining civil rights issues of our time.

The MORE Act is a forward-looking bill that seeks to end the perpetuation of this injustice by removing marijuana from Schedule I and the Controlled Substances Act altogether, thereby decriminalizing it at the Federal level. But, importantly, the legislation does not ignore the past. In fact, the bill seeks to rectify the damage done to those who have already been harmed by the War on Drugs.

The MORE Act would establish an Opportunity Trust Fund within the Department of Treasury to fund programs to empower communities of color and those adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. These programs would provide services to individuals, including job training, reentry services and substance use disorder services; provide funds for loans to assist small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and provide resources for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.   

Public support for the decriminalization of marijuana has surged over the past two decades. In the most recent Pew Research Center poll—which was released at the end of 2019—67 percent of Americans now back marijuana legalization, up from 62 percent in Pew’s 2018 poll. And just this November, there were ballot measures pertaining to marijuana in several states; they were all approved by voters.

Indeed, federal action on this issue would follow the growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable. Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. 

And remember: no empirical study has ever presented evidence to justify marijuana’s designation as a Schedule I drug alongside inarguably more dangerous substances, like heroin.

The states are ready. The American people are ready. And, now, the US House of Representatives is ready to decriminalize cannabis. We must right this wrong. 

Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other, and remember that my office is here to help. Be sure to visit the COVID-19 page on my website for more information and resources. If you have any questions or concerns, or if you need assistance, please don't hesitate to call us at (703) 256-3071.

Sincerely,

Gerald E. Connolly
Member of Congress  
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Washington, DC Office
2238 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-1492

Annandale Office
4115 Annandale Road, Ste. 103
Annandale, VA 22003
Phone: (703) 256-3071
Fax: (703) 354-1284

Prince William Office
2241-D Tacketts Mill Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22192
Phone: (571) 408-4407
Fax: (571) 408-4708


 
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