More than a dozen congressional Democrats have filed a resolution to recognize the country’s “moral obligation to meet its foundational promise of guaranteed justice for all,” in part by legalizing marijuana and overdose prevention sites as well as expunging drug-related records.
The legislation, led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), proposes a number of reforms to address systemic issues like mass incarceration, racial discrimination, addiction and homelessness.
Cannabis isn’t the focus of the measure, but it’s included in a section calling for the decriminalization of “behavior and divert cases that do not require confinement” in order to reduce the country’s prison population.
Part of that effort should include “decriminalizing addiction, homelessness, poverty, HIV status, and disabilities, including mental health diagnosis, by legalizing marijuana and overdose prevention sites, declining to criminally prosecute low-level offenses such as loitering and theft of necessity goods, and expunging the records of individuals for all drug-related offenses.”
The resolution, which currently has 16 cosponsors in addition to Pressley, also points out that approximately 30 percent of the federal prisoners are serving drug-related sentences.
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It adds that “many incarcerated individuals suffering from chronic illnesses often receive little or no treatment, and individuals suffering from substance use disorders face higher rates of overdose in jails and prisons that prohibit treatment drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine.”
Further, it calls for the dismantling of the 1994 Crime Bill, which was championed by President Joe Biden during his time in the Senate and instituted punitive drug policies. The measure should be replaced “with a holistic and community-led public health and safety agenda,” the new resolution says says.
Cosponsors of the resolution include Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilham Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Cori Bush (D-MO).
The whereas section of the proposal emphasizes that “the Federal Government has an obligation to rebuild the American legal system so that it is smaller, safer, less punitive, and more humane.”
This is the third session that the legislation has been introduced, with a comparable list of cosponsors. But the past versions did not advance to hearings or votes, and it seems unlikely that it would move this Congress with Republicans in control of the House and no GOP original cosponsors.
The House has approved federal marijuana legalization bills on two occasions under Democratic control, but they did not advance in the opposite chamber. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) did say in April that he plans to reintroduce a comprehensive measure to end federal prohibition, but the general expectation is that only more incremental reform like a bipartisan cannabis banking bill—perhaps with the addition of expungements provisions or other incremental reforms—stands a chance of passage under the divided Congress.
Meanwhile, the House unanimously approved a separate resolution on Tuesday that voiced support for Americans incarcerated in Russia—including a U.S. citizen who is serving a 14-year sentence over possession of medical marijuana that he obtained legally in Pennsylvania.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.