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Durbin Delivers Opening Statement at Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism hearing entitled “Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms.”

Key Quotes:

“There has been a sea change in the way cannabis has been addressed throughout this country.  Thirty-eight states have now legalized the medical use [of cannabis], and the District of Columbia and 19 states – including Illinois – have legalized or decriminalized recreational use by adults over age 21.” 

“It’s clear that, like much of the failed ‘war on drugs,’ the criminal enforcement approach to marijuana regulation has resulted in serious injustices… Marijuana arrests are the largest single category of arrests in the United States.  Marijuana arrests annually are larger than the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined.” 

“We also know that there are significant racial disparities in criminal enforcement.  Black, Latino, and Native Americans are arrested and prosecuted for marijuana offenses at much higher rates than White Americans, despite data indicating that marijuana use is quite similar across all of these groups.”

“That’s why it’s important that, as cannabis production transitions to the legal marketplace, we ensure that groups historically targeted for prosecution should have full opportunity to participate.  And we should direct a substantial portion of cannabis tax revenues to programs that aid individuals and communities harmed by the ‘war on drugs.’”   

“As we think about legislating [in this area], I want to emphasize two other concerns.  First, we must ensure that these products are not marketed to children.  There should be no ‘Joe Camel’ of cannabis.  And there should be no candy-flavored vaping products on the market.” 

“I’ve been fighting for years with the tobacco companies and their flavored e-cigarettes… we shouldn’t have to fight this battle all over again with cannabis.”

“Second, where cannabis compounds are sold as medicinal products, any health claims have to be real and they should be backed up by solid science, and consumers should know exactly what ingredients are in the products they are putting in their bodies.” 

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin is a cosponsor of the bipartisan and Senate-passed Cannabidiol and Marijuana Research Expansion Act.  The bill would encourage scientific and medical research on marijuana and its compounds including cannabidiol, or CBD, by removing some of the significant barriers to research in current federal law. 

Durbin is also a cosponsor of the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act, which would allow financial institutions to offer banking services to legally-operating cannabis businesses without fear of punishment by federal regulators.