U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján Introduces Marijuana Reform Legislation To Protect Immigrant Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. House Assistant Speaker Luján (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to remove minor marijuana use, possession and distribution charges from the list of deportable offenses to protect immigrant communities, including DREAMers, from targeted attacks by the Trump administration.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, U.S. House of Representatives
Specifically, Remove Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act would prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs from using minor drug offenses, including possession of marijuana, to target immigrants for deportation. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Senate companion bill.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, more than 34,000 immigrants were deported between 2007 and 2012 for marijuana possession. Since President Trump rescinded guidelines that listed misdemeanor offenders and cannabis convictions as “low priority” in 2014, the crisis has worsened. This anti-immigrant agenda from the Trump administration stands in contrast to the policies of dozens of states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use and possession.
“The Trump administration’s decision to use marijuana as a weapon against our immigrant communities is despicable. The federal government should not be wasting resources to wreak havoc on immigrant families when there are children held in border camps that are desperate for legal services, hygiene products, and basic humanitarian care. Providing care for these children and families should be where the Trump administration devotes its funding – not working as a deportation force,” Assistant Speaker Luján said. “I’m proud to be fighting for this legislation to hold President Trump accountable and defend our immigrant communities from senseless and hateful policies.”
“This Administration’s efforts to use marijuana possession as a tool for deportation is misguided and does not make our communities safer. Limited law enforcement resources should not be wasted on deporting people for something two of the last three presidents have admitted to doing,” Sen. Booker said. “This legislation will remove another one of ICE’s weapons that have been deployed to execute this Administration’s hardline immigration policy. I’m pleased Rep. Luján has joined me in this effort.”
Luján is also a co-sponsor of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), which would require resentencing and expungement of prior convictions for minor marijuana convictions and would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Luján is also a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), which would allow marijuana dispensaries to access banking services.
The legislation is endorsed by civil and immigrant rights groups, including the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Immigrant Defense Project.
“Using minor drug offenses to bar, detain and deport immigrants is a cruel policy that leads to the separation of too many New Mexican families,” said Executive Director Marcela Díaz of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, New Mexico’s statewide immigrant rights organization. “Our immigration system is clearly broken, and the Removing Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act is sound policy and a step in the right direction. We laud Congressman Luján for championing this important legislative proposal.”
“The status quo of marijuana criminalization is irrational and discriminatory towards tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding aspiring Americans who pose no safety risk to the United States. Public opinion and policy surrounding cannabis are rapidly shifting, which is why we must ensure that those who strive to achieve the American Dream are treated with dignity,” said Political Director Justin Strekal, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“Assistant Speaker Lujan’s bill is commonsense legislation that will help keep families together and ensure taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted on cruelly deporting individuals with low-level offenses. We’re encouraged by this step to pass smart reforms at the intersection of criminal justice and immigration policy that strengthen families and communities across the country,” FWD.us President said Todd Schulte said.
“We’re the closest that we have ever been to ending marijuana prohibition across the United States; it’s vital that individuals and communities that continue to bear the brunt of prohibition do not get left behind – that includes noncitizens,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana has been one of the leading causes for deportation, destroying the lives of countless individuals and families over a substance that is now the center of an industry bringing in billions in profits. We applaud the leadership of Congressman Lujan for the Removing Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act and for sharing our values of centering those who continue to face the most harm under failed marijuana policies.”
“Millions of Americans treat debilitating medical conditions and ease their suffering with cannabis produced in accordance with U.S. state laws, but non-citizen residents of and visitors to the United States risk deportation and lifetime entry bans for so much as acknowledging past marijuana use. Ill and suffering individuals’ citizenship status should not determine whether they can legally obtain cannabis. Americans for Safe Access is proud to support the Removing Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act, which would expand patient access, protect patient rights, and provide an avenue for the redress of past injustice through amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act,” said President Sean Khalepari of Americans for Safe Access.
“Our marijuana laws and our immigration laws are cruel and wasteful. Both require urgent, comprehensive reforms. Removing marijuana from deportable offenses would represent a big step in the right direction on both counts,” said Director John M. Walsh, Drug Policy and the Andes for Washington Office on Latin America.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Dina Titus (D-NV), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY).