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Feds Debate Cannabis Laws While Arkansas Could Go Full Legal

Talks on looser laws and legalization are happening nationwide.

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Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen, a longtime proponent for cannabis-law reform, pushed his record-expungement legislation during a "historic" federal hearing last week on marijuana laws.

The hearing, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, was called "Marijuana Laws in America: Racial Justice and the Need for Reform."

The National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said the talks were historic, even though they didn't yield any firm conclusions on current drug laws or next steps to reform them.

NORML board member Rick Steves celebrated the “historic” House hearing. - NORML/FACEBOOK
  • NORML/Facebook
  • NORML board member Rick Steves celebrated the “historic” House hearing.

"For the first time in a generation, there will be a candid conversation in the House Judiciary Committee that acknowledges the failures of marijuana prohibition in the United States, how this policy has adversely impacted tens of millions of Americans, and how it must be reformed at the federal level," NORML political director Justin Strekal said in a statement.

Two main pieces of cannabis legislation sit before Congress. One would relax federal drug laws on cannabis in states that have legalized it in some way. Another would go further, seeking to give help to those communities disproportionately affected by current drug enforcement laws.

Cohen (D-Memphis) touted his Fresh Start Act, which, he said, he's been pushing since his first year in Congress.

"It would say that if you have a non-violent offense and you had gone seven years without an offense in the federal system, you could get your record expunged," Cohen said during the hearing.

Fully Legal in Arkansas?

Last week, a group announced plans for two 2020 ballot initiatives in Arkansas to allow recreational use of cannabis and to expunge the records of those with cannabis-related convictions.

The Drug Policy Education Group's (DPEG) Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would allow possession of the drug by those 21 and older for personal use. Adults there could possess up to four ounces of cannabis flower, two ounces of cannabis concentrate, and edible products containing cannabis with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of 200 mg or less. They could also grow up to six cannabis seedlings and six cannabis flowering plants for personal use.

The group's second proposal is called the Arkansas Marijuana Expungement Amendment. It would petition courts to release or reduce sentences and expunge the records of those convicted of cannabis offenses in the state.

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