Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Advocacy groups urge House leaders not to move forward with banking bill that "does not solve the underlying problems of marijuana prohibition"
As noted in this prior post, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is reportedly planning to put a marijuana banking bill on the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote in the coming weeks. But yesterday a set of advocacy groups sent this short and significant letter to House leaders urging a postponement of the floor vote because the SAFE Banking Act fails to address any criminal justice reform issues. Here are excerpts from the letter:
The Congress has a unique opportunity to address the myriad injustices created by this nation’s marijuana laws. For decades, people of color have suffered under harsh and racially-biased marijuana laws. Although marijuana use is equal between whites and Blacks, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses. Despite many states legalizing marijuana, arrests have increased, with one arrest every 48 seconds. Against this backdrop, we urge Congress to address the issue of marijuana prohibition holistically and inclusively, with timely Committee and Floor consideration of H.R.3884 – the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019. Marijuana legislation must first address the equity and criminal justice reform consequences of prohibition.
The banking bill does not address marijuana reform holistically. Instead, it narrowly addresses the issues of banking and improved access to financial services, measures that would benefit the marijuana industry, not communities who have felt the brunt of prohibition. To be clear, we recognize the challenges facing marijuana businesses that lack access to financial services. However, we believe it is a mistake to move this issue forward while many of the other consequences of marijuana prohibition remain unresolved. The banking bill does not solve the underlying problems of marijuana prohibition – namely, that many people of color have been saddled with criminal records for a substance that is now legal in many states, and that communities have been shut out of the emerging and booming marijuana industry....
Since the start of the 116th Congress, we have expressed concern to House Leadership, the House Financial Services Committee, and member offices, that if the banking bill moved to the Floor before broader reform, it would jeopardize comprehensive marijuana reform. Therefore, we have pushed for a conversation among advocates, Committee leadership, and House Leadership to formulate a plan for moving marijuana legislation in a way that is comprehensive and does not result in carve-outs for the industry and leave behind impacted communities.
We ask that you delay any vote on the banking bill until agreement has been reached around broader marijuana reform.