Members of the United States House of Representatives release a memo on the benefits of cannabis decriminalization, deprogramming and propose reforms

Following the announcement of a November 15 U.S. Congressional hearing titled “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level,” a U.S. House Subcommittee released a joint memorandum on cannabis.

The memo, from the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, proposes decriminalization, various policy reforms and the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act .

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Positions on decriminalization

The report states that the federal decriminalization of cannabis has multiple benefits.

Drawing from the American Civil Liberties Union’s 2020 report, “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform,” the memo states that black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession of cannabis than whites, despite similar consumption rates between blacks and whites.

“In many states, arrests related to marijuana use can have life-altering consequences: parents can lose their children in legal proceedings, disabled and low-income recipients of public assistance can lose health care, immigrants can face deportation, families can be kicked out of public housing, and finding a job can be difficult or outright impossible in some cases. Blacks and Browns disproportionately face these repercussions,” the memo shares.

Additionally, the memo discusses cannabis as a treatment option for veterans, stating that “the federal ban on Veterans Affairs (VA) physicians from prescribing or recommending medical cannabis leaves a significant therapeutic void.”

“Despite years of limited access to medical cannabis for research, the first Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-regulated study of treating veterans with smoked cannabis was conducted in the fall of 2021,” according to the report. “The study revealed promising potential for the relief of PTSD. Additional recent research has shown a correlation between cannabis use and reduced recovery times and symptoms of PTSD.

The memo cites the VA’s estimate that 13% of veterans taking opioids have opioid use disorder. Additionally, the memo states that “studies of medical cannabis use by pain patients in multiple states show a significant reduction or outright elimination of opioid use after treatment,” citing research conducted in Minnesota and New Mexico.

The memo also cites surveys by the American Legion and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that found more than 80 percent of veterans support the legalization of medical cannabis. However, he notes that a 2022 University of Kansas study found that service-connected veterans with disabilities feared losing their VA benefits due to cannabis use, leading them to continue taking traditional medicines, even though traditional medicines can cause harmful side effects and addictions. .

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Addressing federal employment, the report also points out that it is illegal for federal employees to use cannabis, even when it has been prescribed or consumed off-duty.

“Earlier this year, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) approved a resolution to”[s]support the removal of off-duty responsible marijuana use from suitability criteria” for “non-security-sensitive and non-national security related positions,” the memo reads. “AFGE has also expressed support for the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Clearance (MORE) Act.”

Positions on the reforms

The memo also outlines “necessary reforms related to decriminalization.”

On delisting, the memo quotes cannabis advocates who said federal reforms would undo the damage done by the federal war on drugs.

“Some states allow mayors and other officials to grant pardons for marijuana offenses,” according to the report. “In Alabama, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin used a 1975 law to establish the Pardons for Progress program, pardoning more than 15,000 city residents for marijuana possession offenses committed between 1990 and April 20, 2022. , and removing barriers to employment for these people. Mayor Woodfin continues to grant pardons on a rolling annual basis and has encouraged other mayors across the state to do the same.

In addition to prohibition, licensing restrictions and exclusion from financial services harm “legal cannabis companies and communities,” according to the report. The memo delves into burglaries that have taken place at cannabis businesses across the country, stating “[i]Industry and government leaders agree that forcing legal businesses to operate entirely in cash breeds criminal activity.

Cannabis employees may experience ‘downstream effects’ due to a lack of access to banks and capital, barriers to entry into the cannabis market and high tax rates, the report says .

The memo quotes Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, as saying during a Senate Banking Committee hearing: “[G]Being paid in cash means it’s difficult to get a credit card, prove your income for a loan, or even maintain your personal bank account. It can force workers to turn to sleazy outfits like payday lenders and check cashing services… or trap people in a cycle of debt.

Regulation is needed to fully decriminalize cannabis, according to the memo, which states, “It will be necessary to maintain existing state-regulated products within the federal framework to prevent the wholesale restructuring of licensed cannabis industries from existing status.

Competitive cannabis tax rates would also help businesses and encourage consumers to buy cannabis legally, according to the memo.

“Under current law, most U.S. cannabis businesses face an effective tax rate of up to 90% due to a federal tax provision that specifically prohibits Schedule I drugmakers to take trade deductions,” the report said, citing The Washington Post. “In addition, cannabis products are taxed at a high rate at the state level, often more than alcohol, which increases costs for consumers of legal cannabis,” he says, quoting Forbes.

Additionally, the memo cites the Minority Cannabis Business Association’s 2022 “National Cannabis Equity Report” as stating that: “The number of states with policies prohibiting those convicted of possession not violent cannabis from participating in the legal market is an important concern for social equity. and real second chances. Almost all adult medical cannabis programs explicitly disqualify licensing based on certain convictions, while only a few provide exemptions for qualified cannabis convictions. More than two-thirds of states cap the total number of businesses that can operate in the state, reducing the total number of opportunities to enter the market and further disadvantage those convicted of cannabis.

The Federal Annex

The Nov. 15 hearing and memo follow President Joe Biden’s plan, announced Oct. 6, to order Attorney General Merrick Garland to pardon all federal offenses for simple possession of cannabis; urging governors to pardon state-level offenses for simple possession of cannabis; and to ask Garland and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to review cannabis programming. Cannabis is currently listed under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug with no medical use and high potential for abuse.

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The memo, however, states that cannabis “does not meet the criteria of a Schedule I drug, or Schedules II through V, for that matter.” It cites the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in stating that cannabis does not have the same abuse potential as Schedule II and III drugs. Additionally, it cites findings from Harvard Medical School that it can be used for pain control, managing nausea and weight loss, muscle relaxation, and treating glaucoma.

“Downgrading marijuana to a lower category would not be sufficient to address the many criminal justice and regulatory issues that exist due to disparities between state and federal laws,” the memo reads. “Cannabis would still be banned federally, and many of the current problems – from lack of access to veterans, to the barrier to federal employment, to insurmountable banking regulations – would continue to exist. Deprogramming is necessary to effectively end federal prohibition and allow states to oversee their own marijuana policies.

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Witnesses at the hearing include Woodfin; representatives of NORML; the Global Cannabis Trade Alliance, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation; the Cannabis Veterans Coalition; Free hearts; and the R Street Institute.

Watch the audience live here at 10 a.m. ET on November 15.

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