GBH News | Mass. marijuana equity advocates say federal action would ‘level the playing field’
After a six-month wait, the Department of Justice finally responded to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Cory Booker’s letter to the White House asking President Joe Biden’s administration to effectively decriminalize marijuana and pardon all non-violent cannabis-related offenses. Warren’s office called the 230-word, half-page response “extraordinarily disappointing” and issued another statement with five fellow senators on Wednesday urging the administration to take federal action.
“The Administration’s failure to coordinate a timely review of its cannabis policy is harming thousands of Americans, slowing research, and depriving Americans of their ability to use marijuana for medical or other purposes,” the letter reads. “We ask that the Biden Administration act quickly to rectify this decade-long injustice harming individuals, especially Black and Brown communities.”
Massachusetts marijuana equity advocates are hailing the senators’ letter and echoing their call for the Biden administration to declassify cannabis as a Schedule I drug. They argue that, even though the commonwealth legalized the drug by ballot initiative in 2016, federal action would significantly benefit those in Massachusetts — and across the nation — who are disproportionately impacted by cannabis laws.
Sarah Kim, chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, said expungement of prior convictions would benefit the commission’s Social Equity Program, which helps those with federal offenses participate in Massachusetts’ legal cannabis industry. She said people who have cannabis-related offenses on their records currently have trouble getting loans from banks because of the drug’s federal classification.
It’s a program that creates “sustainable pathways into the cannabis industry for individuals most impacted by the War on Drugs, marijuana prohibition, disproportionate arrest, and incarceration,” according to the commission’s website.
Kim added that federal action would also pave the way for more research on marijuana.
“It encourages institutions to do more research into the benefits or even downsides of marijuana,” she said. “We all need to know that information as we create a more safe and well-regulated industry.”
Subscribe for updates from the Cannabis Control Commission.