Congress should legalize cannabis now – for the economy and for social justice

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During 2020, Congress at times acted quickly to stop the bleeding of lost US jobs the fallout from the pandemic. And at other times, including now, Congress fiddled with the contents of massive relief packages. One thing is certain: As cases continue to rise across the country, American families facing grave uncertainty have found little relief.

Meanwhile, for minorities, particularly hard hit by the pandemic in both health and economic terms, the systemic and prolonged scourge of racial inequality has erupted in nationwide protests. Millions of Americans have marched through the streets for social justice, despite our dual health and economic crises, putting their personal health at risk as cases rise.

The new Congress and the new Biden-Harris administration certainly have a lot to consider. But they could make a move that could simultaneously solve America’s economic and social problems: the legalization of cannabis.

While federal cannabis legalization may seem like an unexpected fix to many Americans, the recent bipartisan push for legalization is pushing for a vote to repeal this outdated ban during the lame duck session this month. The bill also enjoys newly influential support: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was one of the first sponsors of the legislation in the Senate.

The bill – the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and De-listing Act (MORE) – would address essential elements of social justice, including the decriminalization of cannabis and the expungement of certain long-standing cannabis offenses. that have disproportionately affected minority communities for decades. This would be a major change from the outdated model of the ‘war on drugs’, which has led to skyrocketing rates of incarceration among minorities, particularly in the black community. whose members are more than three times more likely to be arrested for possession as White.

But the MORE law does more – it also relieves economic pressure. The bill would establish a federal excise tax, creating a huge amount of new revenue each year for the US Treasury. The bill also resolves the disconnect between outdated federal cannabis policy and the varying degrees of legalization already enacted by 36 states and even Washington, DC – the very seat of Congress.

Marijuana activists wield a 51-foot inflatable joint during a pro-legalization rally on the U.S. Capitol in 2019.
Caroline Brehman – CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

As Americans watch the threat of a deep recession, it’s no surprise that lawmakers are looking to depression-era policies to pull the economy out of its dive. Historians note thatrepealing the alcohol ban in the 1930s, has been an economic catalyst that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and generated the equivalent of billions of dollars in tax revenue. What is less known is that this decision was also an act of social justice. It ended a disastrous law enforcement experience, which, among other things,unleashed the Ku Klux Klan to perpetuate state-sanctioned violence against people of colorwho had the temerity to take a simple drink.

There are legitimate reasons to repeat the history of repeal, now with cannabis, especially afterpolicymakers saw dispensaries as essential in state after state. It is estimated that the sale of recreational cannabis, if legalized today in all 50 states, would generate more than $ 175.8 billion through 2025 in federal sales, business and payroll taxes, and create nearly 1.6 million jobs by 2026.

Obviously, the new revenues would help offset critical relief spending, which is already priced in the trillions. But shedding light on existing fraudulent sales would also bring cannabis workers into the fold of employment law, including increasing their chances of obtaining health care coverage. And consumers would be protected by quality controls in a tightly regulated market. In fact, cannabis should never have been classified as a prohibited Schedule I substance in the first place. It has neither the addictive properties nor the lack of medicinal value that such categorization requires. Subsequent racist motives contributed to the cannabis ban as early as 1937.

The time has come for a change.

Our vision at Canopy Growth is to deliver a remarkably safe product for adults to consume responsibly while investing in the communities where we operate. As we grow in the United States, we are committed to helping regulators ensure safe and effective standards, as we have done in countless other countries.

For now, as Americans grapple with how best to dismantle systemic racism in the midst of an economic crisis, cold heads in Congress are looking in the right direction – to the past. Putting forward this essential and common sense legislation would suddenly create an anchor for social justice reform, while offering a new source of essential income.

David Culver is the US Vice President of Government Relations at Canopy Growth Corporation, a leading cannabis production company based in Canada.

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