Federal Cannabis Regulation

Adopted at the 89th Annual Meeting in 2021

  • WHEREAS, the Department of Health and Human Services, a government agency of the United States of America, holds U.S. Patent 6630507, which identifies the medicinal benefits of cannabinoids, the compounds found in cannabis; and

    WHEREAS, in 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published an unprecedented national report on cannabis possession arrests, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White" which analyzed data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2001 and 2010, revealing data on millions of cannabis arrests, approximately 90 percent for possession alone, and uncovering that Black people are much more likely to be arrested than white people for cannabis possession despite comparable usage rates; and

    WHEREAS, in 2013, simple cannabis possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any offense and the most common cause of deportation for drug law violations; and

    WHEREAS, in 2018, the ACLU found that extreme racial disparities in cannabis possession arrests persists throughout the country, with the cannabis arrest rate 3.64 times higher for individuals who are Black than individuals who are white in the United States; and

    WHEREAS, racial disparities in arrests exist in every state, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small Black populations; and

    WHEREAS, in 2018, despite decriminalization and legalization efforts in individual states, cannabis arrests accounted for over 40 percent of drug arrests in the United States and more arrests than all violent crimes combined according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations; and

    WHEREAS, Black, Indigenous and Latino/a/x people have been historically targeted by discriminatory sentencing practices resulting in Black men receiving drug sentences that are 13.1 percent longer than sentences imposed for white men and Latino/a/x individuals being nearly 6.5 times more likely to receive a Federal sentence for cannabis possession than non-Hispanic whites; and

    WHEREAS, for those individuals who were formerly incarcerated, a recent analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative shows that more than 27 percent are unemployed, which is a higher rate than the overall unemployment rate during the Great Depression; and

    WHEREAS, according to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, ex-offenders owe as much as 60 percent of their income to criminal debts; and

    WHEREAS, according to Pew Charitable Trusts, serving time in prison reduces a person's annual earnings by 40 percent; and

    WHEREAS, according to Pew Charitable Trusts, incarceration depresses the total earnings of white males by two percent, Hispanic males by six percent and Black males by nine percent; and

    WHEREAS, according to Pew Charitable Trusts, the average family income over the years during which the father is incarcerated is 22 percent lower than the family income was in the year before the father was incarcerated, and even in the year after the father is released from incarceration, the family income remains 15 percent lower than in the year before incarceration; and

    WHEREAS, racial disparities in decades of cannabis criminalization and collateral consequences have contributed to mass incarceration, multi-generational marginalization and disinvestment in the wellbeing of Black, Indigenous and people of color, impacting every single determinant of health in communities of color including unemployment, median household income, access to housing, health disparities, and overall mortality rates; and

    WHEREAS, the harms from racially-biased enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws include not only arrests, incarceration and lifelong criminal convictions, but also the loss of jobs, housing, financial aid eligibility, child custody, and immigration; and

    WHEREAS, a 2020 study completed by Citi Global Perspectives and Solutions found that if the racial wealth gap were closed 20 years ago, $16 trillion could have been added to the United States economy and if the gap were closed today, $5 trillion could be added over the next five years; and

    WHEREAS, the cannabis industry is likely to become a global multi-trillion dollar industry, with early U.S. sales already generating billions of dollars; and

    WHEREAS, a total of 36 States have reformed their laws pertaining to cannabis despite the Schedule I status of cannabis and its Federal criminalization; and

    WHEREAS, a 2017 snapshot of the U.S. cannabis industry showed that less than three percent of direct, plant-touching cannabis businesses were Black-owned and less than six percent were Hispanic- or Latinx-owned; and

    WHEREAS, the vast majority of cannabis businesses are self-funded, with 84 percent of businesses utilizing the founder's savings to launch the business while only one percent of businesses were able to secure a bank or state agency loan; and

    WHEREAS, very few historically excluded entrepreneurs of color can afford the average start-up costs to open a plant-touching cannabis business, which industry associations estimate at $400,000 in minimum start-up capital; and

    WHEREAS, according to McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on their executive teams were 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile, and companies with the most ethnically and culturally diverse boards worldwide are 43 percent more likely to experience higher profits; and

    WHEREAS, cannabis equity initiatives in other states and municipalities using the race neutral qualification standards have failed to create equitable market participation and leverage the benefits of diversity; and

    WHEREAS, the government is accountable for remediating all negative impacts of cannabis prohibition through every aspect of cannabis legalization and policy reform, specifically to ensure that communities disproportionately impacted by the prohibition of cannabis are able to benefit from this multi-billion dollar industry,

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors urges Congress and President Biden to remove cannabis, specifically delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9 THC) and its derivatives, from the Drug Enforcement Agency's list of controlled substances, to end criminal penalties for cannabis possession and use, and to automatically expunge all past cannabis convictions, including resentencing and restoring all rights particularly voting rights; and

    BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Congress and President Biden to create and update all public policies to reflect that cannabis is medicine and an effective treatment for a variety of health conditions, including amending policies to specifically protect cannabis patients from THC-based drug screening for access to employment and public resources such as housing, financial assistance, health care and education; and

    BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Congress and President Biden to redirect resources away from the eradication and suppression of cannabis and toward public education in cannabis history, scientific research through a public health lens, and community reinvestment, including prioritizing investment in communities and individuals most harmed by cannabis criminalization and collateral consequences; and

    BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Congress and President Biden to legalize cannabis commercialization and sales for adults, 21 or older, through an equity-centered framework of fair taxation, diverse licensing types, and regulation that clearly and consistently ensures for a safe, accessible, equitable and sustainable cannabis marketplace; and

    BE FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors calls on Congress and President Biden to enact legislation like the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act and Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) as the first step towards ending the failed "War on Drugs", repairing the multi-generational harm on U.S. citizens particularly Black, Indigenous and Latino/a/x communities, and preventing further harm caused by collateral consequences of criminalization and intentional barriers to access the rapidly developing legalized market.

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