Caribbean congressional representative supports decriminalisation of ganja

Caribbean congressional representative supports decriminalisation of ganja

Monday, December 07, 2020

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NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — A Democratic congressman, whose district in Brooklyn and Queens in New York represents a significant number of Caribbean nationals, has strongly supported passage of legislation in the US House of Representatives decriminalising marijuana.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, whose 8th Congressional District represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, said he strongly supported passage on of HR 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2020 in the US House of Representatives on Friday.

“Marijuana use is either socially acceptable behaviour, or it’s criminal conduct,” said Jeffries in remarks on the House floor before passage of the Bill. “But it can’t be socially accepted behaviour in some neighbourhoods and criminal conduct in other neighbourhoods when the dividing line is race.

“And that’s why we must pass the MORE Act, decriminalise marijuana in America and bring to life the principle of liberty and justice for all,” added Jeffries, who sits on the House of Representatives’ Judiciary and Budget Committees.

In a 228-164 vote, the US House of Representatives approved the MORE Act that would end the US federal prohibition and criminalisation of marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act and facilitate the expungement of low-level federal marijuana convictions, as well as incentivising state and local governments to do the same.

Friday’s bipartisan vote marked the first time since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 that a US Congressional chamber voted on legislation to remove marijuana from its prohibitive classification under US federal law.

Jeffries noted that the current federal prohibition on marijuana is codified in federal law signed by former President Richard Nixon.

Under that statute, marijuana is in the same category as heroin and LSD.

Jeffries said marijuana prohibition laws result in over 600,000 arrests each year, with 90 per cent of those arrests for simple possession.

The congressman said blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than white Americans, despite using marijuana at comparable rates.

In 2019, over 2.3 million Americans were incarcerated, one in five of them for non-violent drug possession, Jeffries said.

“Many of those who have been incarcerated over the years [are] imprisoned for non-violent drug offences, including possession of marijuana,” he said. “The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.

“We have ruined lives, families and communities,” Jeffries declared. “It’s a stain on our democracy.

The congressman said the MORE Act would decriminalise marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act, apply this retroactively to prior and pending convictions and enable states to set their own policies.

The passage of the MORE Act came two days after the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) took a number of decisions, leading to changes in the way marijuana (cannabis) is internationally-regulated, including its reclassification out of the most dangerous category of drugs.

In reviewing a series of World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on marijuana and its derivatives, the UN said the CND zeroed-in on the decision to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs — where it was listed alongside deadly, addictive opioid, including heroin.

The UN said the CND’s 53 member-states voted on Wednesday to removed cannabis – where it had been placed for 59 years — from the strictest control schedules, that even discouraged its use for medical purposes.

Currently, the UN said more than 50 countries have adopted medicinal cannabis programmes, while Canada, Uruguay and 15 US states have legalised its recreational use, with Mexico and Luxembourg close to becoming the third and fourth countries to do so.

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