Central Coast Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel) has cosponsored a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, his office reported Friday.
Known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), the bill would also revisit convictions for cannabis offenses and authorize a 5% sales tax to reinvest in those communities most negatively affected by the drug war, including those starting their own marijuana business.
“The federal government has lagged behind as states like California continue to modernize how we regulate and decriminalize cannabis,” Panetta said in a press release. “The MORE Act not only deschedules cannabis at the federal level, it also provides a roadmap for states to legalize in a just and equitable manner.”
What the bill includes
Panetta said the bill:
- Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy.
- Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
- Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
- Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense.
- Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
- Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
- Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
- The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
- The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
- The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
Panetta is one of 70 cosponsors for the legislation, which was introduced in the U.S. House in 2019.
California Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat and former prosecutor, introduced the same bill in the Senate, where it has been referred to the finance committee, according to the U.S. Congress’ legislation website.
Panetta has previously voted in favor of another cannabis business bill, the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. That bill, which would prevent the federal government from interfering with banks and other financial institutions doing business with state-legal cannabis enterprises, passed the House in 2019 and was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban affairs.
Joe Szydlowski is a multimedia journalist for the Salinas Californian who covers local government, crime and cannabis. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JoeSzyd_Salinas. He can be reached at 235-2360. Help support The Californian’s work: https://bit.ly/2Qo298J
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