A policy retreat that featured a panel discussion on advancing cannabis reform with a focus on the promotion of equity was attended last week by Democratic congressional legislators.
The panel was moderated by Rep. Barbara Lee and was focused on the need to ensure that communities that were most affected by prohibition could benefit from the federal legalization of marijuana. Those in attendance discussed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (“MORE”) Act, which was sponsored by Jerrold Nadler, the House Judiciary chair.
The event was held in Philadelphia a day after the House passed a large-scale spending bill that carries on an appropriations rider that blocks Washington D.C. from allowing marijuana commerce, despite voters’ approval of legalization at the ballot almost a decade ago.
In an interview, the executive director of Supernova Women, Amber Senter, stated that misconceptions about individuals who qualified for equity benefits under proposed legalization measure and equity programs were discussed. Senter, a constituent of Lee, added that she wanted legislators to understand the difference between Black business and social equity, noting that most believed that they were one in the same.
She added that lawmakers were engaged in the discussion and were keen on following up to learn how to protect Black businesses, highlighting how those in attendance also seemed open and willing to learning more about what was happening from the perspective of those who operated businesses. This, Senter noted, was encouraging as she herself is an owner and operator of a marijuana business.
Amber LittleJohn, executive director of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and Maritza Perez, director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, also took part in the discussion.
Congressional Democrats have held closed-door retreats for cannabis reform a number of times in the recent past. For instance, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Lee also moderated a panel in 2019 that covered various issues, including the consequences of marijuana criminalization.
It hasn’t been confirmed whether House leadership will re-introduce the MORE Act to the floor this month. The measure was approved by the Judiciary Committee in September last year. Stakeholders and advocates are also waiting for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to introduce a separate Senate legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration Opportunity Act, which Schumer revealed would probably be filed in April of this year.
This comes as the state of New York, the majority leader’s home state, takes steps to prioritize individuals who were most affected by marijuana prohibition.
The cannabis industry, including companies such as Cannabis Strategic Ventures Inc. (OTC: NUGS), looks forward to the translation of these discussions into concrete steps to end marijuana prohibition federally and address equity issues comprehensively.
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