Later today Rep. Jerald Nadler (D-N.Y.) is dropping a historic piece of legislation aimed at normalizing marijuana consumption – both current and past use – nationwide. It’s historic because it will make Nadler the first chair of the House Judiciary to ever endorse a coast-to-coast decriminalization bill.
“Never in American history has the Chairman of the Judiciary introduced a bill to end federal marijuana criminalization,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “At a time when one person could have their life ruined in New York for the exact same action that makes someone in California a millionaire, now more than ever we must end the national prohibition of marijuana.”
Nadler, along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) – one of some 20 presidential aspirants – are introducing The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act Tuesday. The legislation seeks to federally decriminalize weed while also trying to upend the underpinnings of the war on drugs.
“Despite the legalization of marijuana in states across the country, those with criminal convictions for marijuana still face second class citizenship. Their vote, access to education, employment, and housing are all negatively impacted,”
Nadler released in a statement ahead of their bill being formally dropped. “Racially motivated enforcement of marijuana laws has disproportionally impacted communities of color.”
This new legislation also has an eye towards helping immigrants who have been caught up in the War on Drugs. According to aides, it explicitly “provides that the use or possession of marijuana will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.”
That’s new. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has long outpaced Harris and other presidential contenders with his Marijuana Justice Act, which decriminalizes pot while also re-investing federal funds into the local communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has teamed up with Sen. Cory Gardner on the STATES Act, which would decriminalize marijuana federally, though without the criminal justice components of the other bills.
That’s where this new measure stands out, because it also mandates “re-sentencing for and expungement of prior marijuana-based convictions” while also banning federal officials from denying public benefits, like housing assistance, to anyone because in the past they were booked for merely possessing some weed.
“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Sen. Harris’ office released in a statement. “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.”
“It’s past time to right this wrong nationwide and work to view marijuana use as an issue of personal choice and public health, not criminal behavior,” Nadler said. “I’m proud to sponsor the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.”
The legislation is endorsed by a wide array of groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).