Rep. Ayanna Pressley's "People's Justice Guarantee" Is The Most Sweeping Weed Legislation Proposal Yet. But Will It Pass?
Pressley's massive criminal justice reform would also decriminalize sex work and end the cash bail system, solitary confinement, and the death penalty.
While there are many proposals on legalizing marijuana, few are as sweeping as the recent "People’s Justice Guarantee" from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the Democrat from Massachusetts who is best known nationally as a member of a group of young, progressive legislators called “The Squad.”
Yes, the proposed legislation would legalize cannabis at the national level. It would also expunge the criminal record of those convicted of marijuana charges in the past. But it goes far beyond that, calling for changes in the criminal justice system that Pressley said are needed to make the system fair to people of color and other minority groups.
“For far too long, those closest to the pain have not been closest to the power, resulting in a racist, xenophobic, rogue, and fundamentally flawed criminal legal system,” Pressley said about the bill. “Our resolution calls for a bold transformation of the status quo - devoted to dismantling injustices so that the system is smaller, safer, less punitive, and more humane.”
This is NOT the bill that recently passed through a House committee.
Pressley’s People’s Justice Guarantee proposal came out just before the House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution on another bill that would both legalize marijuana at the national level.
That bill, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), will now be taken up by the full U.S. House of Representatives.
However, much like Pressley’s bill, the MORE Act faces an uphill climb even if approved by the full House. The U.S. Senate is controlled by the Republican Party. While the two parties have agreed on some cannabis-related issues, such as legalizing hemp-derived CBD, members of the GOP remain largely opposed to legalizing marijuana at the national level.
Whether it passes or not, Pressley’s bill offers a look into the progressive wing of the Democrat's agenda towards cannabis and criminal justice.
What the People’s Justice Guarantee would do.
Pressley’s bill calls for legalizing marijuana at the national level and “expunging the records of individuals for all drug-related offenses.” But that’s just one of many issues. Here’s a list of other changes called for in the resolution:
- Empower communities impacted by the War on Drugs by allowing them to inform and draft legislation that would repeal and dismantle the 1994 Crime Bill “and other punitive policies.”
- Provide tax incentives to local governments and states that take steps to reduce the prison population, such as repealing three-strike provisions
- Dramatically increase diversion opportunities, community service, restorative justice programming and treatment options in cases where the person did not cause or intend to cause harm
- End zero-tolerance school policies that lead to “criminalization of black and brown students in school” and dress code and appearance policies that “disproportionately impact girls of color and LGBTQ+ students.”
- End the death penalty and mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines
Pressley also wants to make sex work legal.
The legislation also has picked up media coverage because it calls for decriminalizing sex work.
Pressley’s bill calls for Congress to decriminalize sex work “by removing criminal and civil penalties related to consensual sex work and addressing structural inequities that impede the safety, dignity, and wellbeing of all individuals, especially those most vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, and citizenship status.”
Pressley told Huffington Post that the measure is needed because it meets two principles of the People’s Justice Guarantee: safety and dignity.
Both “are compromised for consensual sex workers,” Pressley said. “Sex work is work. In fact, sex work is often the only form of work for certain marginalized communities who are most vulnerable to housing and employment discrimination.”