Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents California’s 13th district
First off, I want to thank you for being an active member of the cannabis reform movement and I am proud to tell you that we have never been closer to ending the counterproductive and cruel policy of marijuana criminalization than we are right now.
Today, I introduced the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019 and I have every intention of moving the bill forward, but I need your help.
The prohibition of marijuana has had a devastating effect on communities of color. Although whites and blacks have been found to use marijuana at similar rates, a 2013 report by the ACLU found that a “black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.” As a result, low-income communities and communities of color have been subject to mass-criminalization and mass incarceration.
We can stop this. The Marijuana Justice Act would deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and seek to correct these racial disparities in arrests and sentencing. Further, it mandates that all records of federal possession convictions are expunged and resources be made available to local units of government to assist in the expungement of prior state and local convictions.
In addition to incentivizing states to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Justice Act seeks to repair some of the damage marijuana prohibition has done to this country’s most vulnerable communities. For those communities that have been economically and socially disenfranchised by overcriminalization and cyclical incarceration, this legislation provides funding to programs focused on youth development, citizen re-entry, job training, health education, and funding for community resources such as public libraries and community centers.
Members of Congress must not turn their backs on the millions of Americans nationwide who rely on access to marijuana for their health, wellness, and liberty. According to recently released nationwide survey data, a supermajority of Americans strongly support patients’ access to medical marijuana and oppose federal interference in these matters. A recent poll shows that 93 percent of Americans support the medical use of marijuana, and a poll conducted by the Center for American Progress found American voter support of legalized marijuana is at an all-time high, with 68% of respondents indicating their support. Perhaps most importantly, the poll shows a majority of voters in both major political parties and independents now believe that marijuana should be legal, with the most dramatic jump in support observed in Republican respondents.
In the last session of Congress, 10% of the membership of the House of Representatives were co-sponsors of this bill, a historic level of support. By adding your voice to the growing chorus of calls for reform from around the country, we can finally end marijuana prohibition once and for all in a way that provides justice to those who were most harmed.