The enactment of a proposal to legalize marijuana nationwide would lead to a rise in addiction dependency, homelessness, and youth addiction, as seen in states that have already decriminalized the substance, according to Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.).
The Virginia Republican stated in an April 2 interview with NTD’s “Capitol Report” that “the last thing we need is more people using addictive, behavior-altering recreational drugs,” added to the challenges the United States already faces, including “the rise in violent crime,” as well as fentanyl being illegally trafficked across the southern border resulting in “100,000 Americans dying of overdoses last year.”
The legislation also wouldn’t stop vendors from selling marijuana products such as candy-like edibles or vape merchandise to children, he said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in May 2021 (pdf). The bill was approved by the House on a 220–204 vote, with Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), and Brian Mast (R-Fla.) joining all but two Democrats to vote in favor on April 1.
The measure would eliminate criminal penalties for individuals who grow, distribute, or possess marijuana, require federal courts to expunge prior convictions, open Small Business Administration funding to pot businesses, allow those who have used marijuana to gain security clearance, permit the Veterans’ Administration to prescribe cannabis for medical and mental health reasons, and authorize a 5 percent federal tax on marijuana sales.
The sales tax collected on marijuana products would be reinvested into programs that help “marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs,” according to a May 2021 statement released by Nadler’s office.
If enacted, that means individuals who were prosecuted for their involvement in the drug trade would be prioritized to develop their own “legal marijuana operation,” with the help of federal government resources and funds, Good said.
While critics have argued that the proposed tax on marijuana sales would generate revenue for states, Good said “it’s terrible for the government to try to profit off its citizens using a product that is harmful for them.”
He said that law enforcement officials “will tell you that the criminals and the drug cartels will put their efforts into harder drugs and more dangerous drugs when they lose the profit incentive or the profit opportunity with marijuana.”
A year after the legalization of marijuana, Colorado reportedly saw an 8 percent rise in homelessness, to which then-Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed reinvesting tax revenues from pot sales into homelessness programs, according to statements obtained by The Guardian.
“There’s no question that marijuana and other drugs—in combination with mental illness or other disabling conditions—are essential contributors to chronic homelessness,” Hickenlooper stated, according to the Guardian’s 2017 report.
Meanwhile, Democrats have argued that the criminalization of cannabis products is “racist and discriminatory,” according to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-N.Y.) said that criminal records for marijuana possession “can haunt people of color and impact the trajectory of their lives and career indefinitely.”
“It can result in difficulty finding employment, difficulty finding housing, denial of access to federal benefits, denial of financial aid at colleges and universities, and denial of the right to vote,” Hoyer said. “That’s why we’re dealing with this.”
However, the MORE Act will need to gain 60 votes in the evenly divided Senate, an outcome widely seen as unlikely, given the lack of Republican support for the measure.
Joseph Lord contributed to this report.