Over 50 current and former law enforcement professionals have signed onto a letter urging Congress to take swift action on legislation introduced last year that seeks to decriminalize marijuana and expunge past convictions.
The letter, which went out on Wednesday and is addressed to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Bipartisan success in the Senate signals room for more compromise The GOP's post-1/6 playbook is clear — and it's dangerous MORE (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerMaryland Democrats target lone Republican in redistricting scheme GOP leader's marathon speech forces House Democrats to push vote Overnight Energy & Environment — Land agency move hurt diversity: watchdog MORE (D-Md.), calls on House lawmakers to “swiftly bring” the bill, dubbed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, to the floor for a vote next month.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPoll: Biden's job approval gains two points Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerUnrequited rage: The demand for mob justice in the Rittenhouse trial Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-N.Y.) last summer, would, if passed, decriminalize marijuana, expunge certain marijuana offenses from people’s records and “provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.”
The letter was signed by the National Black Police Association, Fair and Just Prosecution and Law Enforcement Action Partnership, in addition to dozens of current and former prosecutors, judges and police officers. Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx and Minnesota Attorney General Keith EllisonKeith EllisonFormer Rep. Raúl Labrador running for Idaho attorney general Keith Ellison seeking reelection as Minnesota attorney general Minneapolis votes down measure replacing police department MORE (D) were among the list of signees.
I'm proud to join these law enforcement officials in saying we need to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.— State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (@SAKimFoxx) August 19, 2020
We remain focused on combating violent crime, and the work we've done clearing cannabis records is opening doors for thousands and strengthening our communities. https://t.co/gRITyvZYDV
The letter provides a number of reasons why the legislation should be passed, branding the measure as a chance “to repair and strengthen the relationships between us and the people we serve; to shift public resources toward the most serious crimes; to reduce the size and influence of the illicit market; and to usher in an era of health-centered approaches — rather than criminal punishment — for people who use drugs.”
“A significant driver of public distrust in law enforcement is our focus on low-level marijuana arrests,” the letter states, while also arguing that relations between police and public would be better if the drug had “never been criminalized.”
It also argued that “resources used to enforce marijuana law violations could be shifted and used to more effectively tackle serious and violent crimes,” pointing to a past analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) showing over 7 million people in the country were arrested for possession between 2001 and 2010.
The same analysis also showed that, despite Black and white people in the U.S. using marijuana at roughly the same rate at the time, Black people were almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
“Meanwhile, homicide and sex crimes units struggle to get evidence examined in a timely manner. While that evidence sits in storage for years collecting dust, predators roam free to harm more innocent people. This misallocation of resources is disgraceful. By legalizing marijuana at the federal level, we will send a message to every police department in this country about our real priorities,” the letter stated.
In its endorsement of the MORE Act, the letter states that the measure “provides a clear path forward that rights the wrongs of prohibition, and will significantly help law enforcement forge better relationships with the people we serve and bring justice to families of serious, violent crimes.”
If the bill makes it past the House, it’s unclear what chances it’ll face once it gets to the GOP-led Senate.
While pushing to legalize hemp in 2018, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (R-Ky.) said at the time that he had no "plans to endorse the legalization of marijuana" not long after Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed decriminalizing the drug then.