This week, two House representatives reintroduced bipartisan legislation to support states enacting policies to overturn convictions for past cannabis crimes. The bill, the Opportunity Through Pursue Act (HOPE), was introduced on Wednesday by Rep. Dave Joyce, Republican of Ohio, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York.
if passed, The law of hope It will provide federal grants to help states shoulder the financial and administrative burden of expunging previous convictions for marijuana-related crimes. The bill was previously introduced in 2021 but failed to schedule a hearing or vote in the previous Congress. The lawmakers behind the bill, who have been advocates of cannabis policy reform at the federal level, said erasing records could help reduce the lasting impact of a minor criminal conviction.
“The vast majority of petty, non-violent cannabis law violations occur at the state and local levels, denying millions of Americans basic opportunities like housing and employment,” Joyce said in the current situation. “As a former public defender and attorney general, I understand firsthand how these barriers can negatively affect families and economic growth in Ohio and across the country. The Hope Act works to remove these barriers in a bipartisan way to pave the way for the American Dream and remedy the unjust war on cannabis.
The legislation would provide up to $20 million in federal grants over 10 years to state and local governments to clear records of past marijuana convictions. Funding could be used to implement technology to automatically erase large volumes of records, clinics to assist individuals eligible for deletion, notification systems to inform people when their records have been cleared, administrative costs to seal records, and partnerships to aid large-scale deletion of records.
“As we continue to advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, this bipartisan bill will provide localities with the resources they need to remove drug charges that continue to disproportionately hinder Americans, people of color, from employment, housing, and other opportunities,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Brian Vicente, founding partner of cannabis law firm Vicente LLP, said the legislation complements an executive order President Joseph Biden issued last year. He pardoned all federal convictions For simple cannabis possession. At the time, the president called on governors to take similar action at the state level and wrote on Twitter that “Sending people to jail for possession of marijuana has turned a lot of people’s lives around — because of the legal behavior in many states.”
“The Law of Hope is true to its name,” Vicente wrote in an email to High times. It reinforces the fact that key members of Congress agree with the majority of the American public — adults who use marijuana should not face criminal penalties. This bill will put some real teeth behind President Biden’s stated interest in 2022 to pardon people with federal convictions for marijuana through Providing significant funding for state programs to write off marijuana crimes at the state level.”
The reintroduction of the HOPE Act drew quick praise from activists and cannabis industry representatives including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the National Cannabis Roundtable, a trade group advocating continued cannabis policy reform.
“The Hope Act promises just that: hope and a second chance for people with lifelong consequences to be arrested for marijuana possession nationwide,” Morgan Fox, NORML’s political director, said in a statement. “As more states repeal their failed policies to criminalize marijuana consumers, Congress must help them fix the associated harms they helped perpetuate for decades. This legislation is a huge step toward righting the wrongs of prohibition and improving the lives of millions of people across the country.” .
Sophira Gallup, executive director of the National Cannabis Roundtable, said that “only through deletion can we raise the barriers to employment, education, and housing for those already unjustly harmed by federal prohibition. With cannabis programs now in place in 38 states, continuing to curb and punish individuals for What is now a legal activity of the state is to define injustice, and the NCR thanked U.S. Representatives Joyce and Ocasio-Cortez for their efforts to get Congress to help rectify this at long last.”