Harris, Nadler Introduce Federal Cannabis Decriminalization Bills

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WASHINGTON, D.C.Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on Tuesday presented bicameral legislation that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby decriminalizing most sales, use, and cultivation at the federal level. In addition, the bills would expunge previous convictions and prevent current prosecutions from proceeding.

Those convicted of or currently being prosecuted for selling cannabis to minors would not be eligible for protection under the legislation.

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The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act also would allow states to regulate the substance, prohibit discrimination by landlords and others who accept federal money, and prevent immigration authorities from using cannabis charges or convictions as justification for deportation. In addition, the bills propose a 5-percent federal excise tax; Congress would be able to apportion half the resulting revenue to support communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs, invest in small and minority-owned businesses in the cannabis industry, and make licensing easier.

The legislation also would direct the U.S. Department of Justice to establish a “cannabis justice office” to assist people with expungement, provide job training and societal reentry programs, and mentor youth.

Harris, who opposed cannabis legalization while she was California’s attorney general, is a 2020 presidential candidate and Nadler is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Although the House bill is expected to receive consideration on the floor, the Senate version’s future is unclear. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last year said he did not plan to support cannabis decriminalization.

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