During 2020, Congress acted quickly at times to stop the bleeding of American jobs lost in the pandemic. And at other times, including now, Congress has pondered the content of massive aid packages. One thing is certain: as cases continue to rise across the country, American families faced with great uncertainty have found little relief.
For minorities, who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, both healthily and economically, the long-simmering and systemic scourge of racial inequality has broken out in nationwide demonstrations. Millions of Americans have taken to the streets to ensure social justice despite our dual public health and economic crises, and risk personal health as cases rise.
The new Congress and administration of Biden-Harris certainly have much to consider. But there is one step they could take to address America's economic and social problems at the same time: legalizing cannabis.
While federal cannabis legalization seems like an unexpected solution to many Americans, the recent bipartisan dynamic of legalization is pushing for a vote to lift this outdated ban at this month's Lame Duck meeting. The legislation also has new influential support: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was an original sponsor of the legislation in the Senate.
The bill – the Marijuana Opportunities, Reinvestment and Eradication Act (MORE) – would address critical elements of social justice, including the decriminalization of cannabis and the eradication of certain long-outdated cannabis offenses that have disproportionately affected minority communities for decades are. This would be a major departure from the antiquated “war on drugs” model, which has led to skyrocketing incarceration rates among minorities, particularly in the black community, whose members are arrested for possession more than three times as often as whites.
However, the MORE Act does more – it also eases economic pressures. The bill would introduce a federal excise tax and bring huge new revenues to the US Treasury Department every year. The bill also removes the divide between outdated federal cannabis policies and the varying degrees of legalization already enacted by 36 states and even Washington DC – the seat of Congress.
Marijuana activists hold up a 51-foot inflatable boat during a pro-legalization rally in the U.S. Capitol in 2019. Caroline Brehman – CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
With Americans staring at the risk of a deep recession, it is no surprise that lawmakers are looking to Depression-era policies to help steer the economy out of its nosedive. Historians note that the alcohol ban lift in the 1930s was an economic catalyst that created hundreds of thousands of jobs and generated the equivalent of billions in tax revenue. What is less well known is that the move was also an act of social justice. It halted a disastrous law enforcement experiment that, among other things, sparked the Ku Klux Klan to continue state-sanctioned violence against people of color who had the boldness to partake in a simple drink.
There are legitimate reasons to repeat the history of repeal now with cannabis – especially now that policymakers have found pharmacies to be essential from state to state. It is estimated that recreational cannabis sales, if legalized in all 50 states today, will generate more than $ 175.8 billion in federal sales, business and wage taxes by 2025 and nearly $ 1 by 2026, Would create 6 million jobs.
Obviously, the new revenue would help offset spending on critical relief supplies, which are priced in the trillions. However, exposing existing pirated sales would also result in cannabis workers becoming involved in labor law, including increasing their likelihood of obtaining health insurance. And consumers would be protected by quality controls in a strictly regulated market. Really, cannabis should never have been classified as a Schedule I prohibited substance. It has neither the addictive properties nor the lack of medicinal value that such categorization requires. Surviving racist motives contributed to the ban on cannabis as early as 1937.
It is time for changes.
Our vision at Canopy Growth is to provide adults with a remarkably safe product that they can responsibly consume while investing in the communities in which we operate. As we expand in the US, we are committed to ensuring that regulators ensure safe and effective standards, as we have done in countless other countries.
While Americans grapple with the question of how best to reduce systemic racism amid an economic crisis, cool heads in Congress are looking in the right direction – into the past. Bringing this critical, sensible piece of legislation would, in one fell swoop, anchor social justice reform while providing a much-needed new source of income.
David Culver is the US vice president of government relations at Canopy Growth Corporation, a leading cannabis manufacturing company based in Canada.
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