The effort to decriminalize and tax cannabis, which finds strong support among Massachusetts lawmakers and advocates, could cut into the federal deficit to the tune of $7 billion over the next decade.
On top of addressing what many Massachusetts Democrats and cannabis advocates describe as racist drug laws that disproportionately impact communities of color, the decriminalization bill that recently passed in the House of Representatives could shave about $1.2 billion off the ever-increasing federal deficit by 2025, and possibly $7.3 billion by 2030, according to recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Proponents of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act are pressing to expunge federal marijuana convictions and free up states to create their own laws and build new economic opportunities. Leading reformers hope the big jump in revenues and hefty deficit cut could help draw support from Republicans in the U.S. Senate.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Reps. Jim McGovern, Ayanna Pressley, Joe Kennedy III, Katherine Clark, Lori Trahan and Seth Moulton all co-sponsored Senate and House versions of the bill. The Democrat-led House passed the bill last week 228-164, with Reps. Bill Keating and Stephen Lynch joining their Massachusetts colleagues by voting in favor. Only five House Republicans voted for the law; just six Democrats voted against.
States and municipalities would receive about $2.7 billion in grants over the next decade from the Small Business Association, according to CBO. The grants would provide loans to cannabis businesses and help state and local governments develop cannabis licensing rules, CBO says.
The bill proposes to use excise tax on marijuana to provide for the expungement of federal marijuana convictions and arrests. The excise tax on cannabis products manufactured or imported into the U.S. would be deposited into an Opportunity Trust Fund established in the legislation; CBO estimates the Department of Justice will spend about $3 billion from the fund for job training, legal aid and other services “to people harmed by the ‘war on drugs.’”
“People of color are almost (four times) more likely to be arrested for possession than their white counterparts, despite equal rates of use, leading to the over-policing of these communities and convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing and the ability to vote,” Clark said last week. Clark noted that 47 states have modernized cannabis law, arguing “Now it’s Congress’s job to do the same.”
Original story here.