Chairman McGovern Brings Historic Legislation to the House Floor to Reform Federal Cannabis Law and Make Restorative Justice a Reality
Also repeats call for White House and Senate action on true COVID relief bill
**Video of his remarks is available here**
WASHINGTON, DC — Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern (D-MA) brought a historic bill to the House Floor today that reforms our nation’s federal cannabis law and continues repairing the damage caused by the failed war on drugs. H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, decriminalizes cannabis at the federal level and requires a reassessment of prior cannabis convictions. It also invests in services for those who were harmed by the war on drugs and opens Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses.
McGovern has been a supporter of decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level since his earliest days in Congress. As chairman of the Rules Committee, has he reversed the prior Republican practice of blocking cannabis-related policies from getting a debate on the House Floor. Under his chairmanship, the House debated more amendments on cannabis policy last year than it did during the prior two decades.
Excerpts from Chairman McGovern’s remarks are below, video of his full remarks is available here:
“M. Speaker, I want to begin by noting that more than 274,000 Americans have now been killed by COVID19. Our nation is in a perpetual state of mourning. Congress has a lot to do before the end of the year, including funding the government and passing the annual defense bill. But people are struggling in the midst of this pandemic. Our restaurants and small businesses are barely hanging on – if they have been able to make it this far.
“We have to find a way to also get a deal on a true COVID relief bill that matches the scale of this crisis. That’s what the Speaker is committed too. I hope my Republican colleagues will take this moment and considering calling the president and urging him to focus on this crisis. Not more conspiracy theories, this - a pandemic that is killing an American every minute.
“Maybe then Mitch McConnell over in the Senate will also get serious about a true relief bill instead of some band-aid that papers over the scale of what we face. People need help, M. Speaker – and we’ve got to get something done. Now, let me get back to the matter before us today.
“M. Speaker, we are here today to continue our effort to reform our nation’s failed approach to the war on drugs, to put racial justice at the heart of our nation’s federal cannabis policy, and to make restorative justice a reality for so many Americans.
“This is what the public has demanded for so long: that Congress address the broken status quo that allows the color of someone’s skin to dictate the repercussions of their actions. That’s not hyperbole, M. Speaker. Cannabis accounts for over half of all drug arrests in our country. Half. Most are arrested for possessing small amounts, not for selling or manufacturing anything.
“That’s bad enough. But today in America, you are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis if you’re Black. Communities of color use cannabis at roughly the same rate as their white counterparts. But if you look like me, M. Speaker, you are far less likely to face the same penalties.
“I’m not OK with that. I’m not OK with a system that treats those who have been convicted of minor cannabis offenses like they’re some kind of drug kingpin. And I’m not OK with a system that sends people to prison for cannabis-related offenses even in states where recreational cannabis use has been legalized.
“To do nothing about this is intolerable - and to pretend like this is a problem for communities of color to solve alone is inexcusable.
“America’s failed war on drugs helped create this problem. It will take a national, holistic approach to resolve it. H.R. 3884 represents a major step forward. It complements other bipartisan criminal justice reform bills passed in this Congress and the 115th Congress…This is what beginning to reverse the failed war on drugs looks like, M. Speaker…
“I think it is time for us to take a stand - to stand for restorative justice, to stand for racial justice, to stand for criminal justice reform, and to stand with the majority of Americans demanding reforms to our nation’s cannabis policy.”