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Over 50 current, former law enforcement professionals sign letter urging Congress to decriminalize marijuana

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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. 

{mosads}The letter, which went out on Wednesday and is addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (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 Harris (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (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 Ellison (D) were among the list of signees.

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 McConnell (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.

Tags Charles Schumer Jerrold Nadler Keith Ellison Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer

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