In a vote of 236-181, the House of Representatives approved the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which will prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling.
Although there was no specific cannabis policy language or amendments in the policing bill, in a debate leading up to the vote, Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) told the House of Representatives on June 25, 2020 that cannabis reform should not be pushed to the back burner.
Congressman Correa, who is leading the way on medical marijuana for veterans, told the House that he supported cannabis legalization as a way of combating racial disparities in policing practices, especially with regard to marijuana-possession arrests.
“I’d hoped that arrest disparities—especially cannabis-related arrests—would have been part of this measure,” Correa said.
Connecting the obvious fact that the thousands of cannabis arrests annually form a huge part of law enforcement issues and over policing, Rep. Corea quoted ACLU statistics.
“According to the ACLU, black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession and in some states, up to 10 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession,” Correa said on C-Span.
“We can’t ask our police officers to enforce flawed cannabis policy. Cannabis use is a social and medical issue, and not a criminal matter. Let’s not ask our police officers to do the impossible. I ask for reform in cannabis policy immediately.”
Rep. Blumenauer, a House member from Oregon since 1996 who has fought to end the War on Drugs for years, said legalizing cannabis “would be the next step to repealing Nixon’s blatantly racist prohibition of marijuana with its selective enforcement against young black men…for something that Americans think should be legal.”
Blumenauer urged his fellow lawmakers to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), approved in an historic vote by the House Judiciary Committee in 2019.
The MORE Act seeks to federally decriminalize marijuana, expunge criminal records of low-level marijuana offenders and direct 5% of cannabis taxes to benefit communities that have suffered most from the War on Drugs.
“We must continue fighting for much-needed transformational reform by ending qualified immunity, providing resources for alternatives to policing, and ending the failed war on drugs,” Blumenauer wrote on his Facebook page.
A recent ACLU report ranked North Dakota and Minnesota seventh and eighth, respectively, among the states when it comes to racial disparities involving pot arrests.
But Armstrong is optimistic.
“I do have hope because I think this is the most criminally justice reform Congress we’ve ever seen,” Armstrong said. “There are members on both sides of the aisle that are serious about marijuana legislation.”