• Sarah Gersten

In Congressional Hearing Subcommittee Commits to Follow Up Focused on Restorative Justice

Yesterday the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing on “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade,” marking the first time that a hearing was held in the Subcommittee dedicated specifically to marijuana policy reform. Six bills were discussed at the hearing, including the MORE Act, the Marijuana Freedom Act, and four bills aimed at increasing access for medical marijuana research as well as safe access for veterans.

The majority of the hearing focused on the need for research, and establishing a federal framework that would expand access for scientists studying the effects of cannabis. Given that emphasis, witnesses were comprised solely of federal officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Food and Drug Administration and National Institute on Drug Abuse.

However given that the MORE Act was on the table, the discussion did veer briefly into critical issues of justice reform. In his opening remarks, Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who not so long ago campaigned against legalization in his home state of Massachusetts, noted that a second hearing was necessary to capture the voices missing from today’s debate: “There are also critical stakeholders who are missing: those whose lives have been directly touched by our broken marijuana policies, people unjustly incarcerated, patients who rely on medical cannabis, researchers with expertise who are yearning to learn more, small business owners trying to find fair footing in a new industry.”

While some conservative lawmakers balked at the idea of even descheduling, Kennedy reasserted his belief at the end of the hearing that the MORE Act was the best legislative vehicle to legalize marijuana precisely because of its focus on criminal justice reform: “Prohibition has clearly failed… the reason I think this bill is the superior policy than the others on the table today is that it makes an intentional and aggressive commitment to restorative justice in communities of color.”

Kennedy also stated that the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health, Rep. Anna Eshoo, was committed to bringing together a second hearing that would focus on the perspectives of those individuals negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition.


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