In a historic move, the U.S. House passed a bill last week that would remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances and eliminate federal criminal penalties for anyone who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana. This is the first time that a chamber of the U.S. Congress has voted on decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level.
The bill, known as the Marijuana Opportunity 5 Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 or “MORE Act,” proposes “to decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses, and for other purposes.” In addition, the Act would create a trust fund, funded by a tax on cannabis products, that is intended to help those affected by the “War on Drugs.” This move in Congress comes after recent votes by some states to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, but is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.
Closer to home, in North Carolina, a Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice (TREC) recently made recommendations “to decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts and to further study potential legalization of marijuana possession, cultivation, and sale.” The Task Force was established in June of this year by Governor Roy Cooper and is co-chaired by NC Attorney General Josh Stein and NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls. The primary aim of the Task Force is to “focus on addressing existing policies and procedures that disproportionately affect communities of color and developing solutions to ensure racial equity in North Carolina’s criminal justice system.”
The Task Force suggests that people possessing up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana should be subject to a civil offense instead of a misdemeanor criminal charge. The Task Force also recommends “that North Carolina convene a Task Force of stakeholders, free from conflict of interest, to study the pros and cons and options for legalization of possession, cultivation and/or sale, including government or not for profit monopoly options.” According to the Task Force, this study “should be guided by a public safety, public health, and racial equity framework.”
The Task Force plans to release its marijuana recommendations to Governor Cooper on December 15th, but the NC General Assembly would have to make changes to state law.
The Task Force has made all of its meetings open for public viewing and has given the public an opportunity to contact its members. To find the contact information for TREC’s members and view the schedule, minutes, and recordings of each meeting, click here.
For more information on the harms of marijuana use, visit these resources.