Bills that would legalize and tax marijuana at the national level, and provide opportunities for people convicted of federal pot crimes to clear their records, were introduced July 23, 2019, in Congress.
The companion legislation in the House and Senate were introduced by Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California and U.S. Rep. Jarrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee.
“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” said Harris, who is running for president. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives.”Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime. Click To Tweet
The tax revenue from legalization would support job training, substance abuse treatment, literacy programs, and other services for individuals and communities hit hard by the war on drugs. Some of the revenue would also support programs designed to help “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” start their own marijuana businesses.
Passage Isn't Assured
While support for marijuana legalization has gained traction in Congress, it's still a longshot that a bill will pass this session. Still, Nadler's introduction means the issue is very likely to get a hearing before his committee.
Supporters of legalization hailed Nadler's involvement as a clear sign of momentum.
“Never in American history has the chairman of the Judiciary introduced a bill to end federal marijuana criminalization,” said Justin Strekal, political director of the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
"At a time when the state you live in can determine whether cannabis can ruin your life or make you a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana," he said.
Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana since 2012 for so-called recreational use by people 21 and older. Illinois joined the list in June 2019 when Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation removing criminal penalties and allowing for expungement of past low-level marijuana convictions.
Legalization efforts in New York and New Jersey stalled, however, despite strong support in their legislatures. Proponents believe legalization is only a matter of time in those states. New Jersey will allow voters to determine whether to legalize marijuana in November 2020. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the states have some form of legal medical marijuana, which also is banned at the federal level.
Also, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing July 23 to discuss banking reform efforts for the cannabis industry. A bill in Congress dubbed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Act would allow financial institutions to work with cannabis-related businesses without the threat of federal punishment.
Featured Image: Photo by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News