Historic marijuana legalization vote today in Washington; expert at Rice’s Baker institute available for interviews


Jeff Falk

Historic marijuana legalization vote today in Washington; expert at Rice’s Baker institute available for interviews

HOUSTON — (Nov. 20, 2019) – The House Judiciary Committee today will hold a historic vote on legislation to federally legalize marijuana. The sweeping cannabis reform bill would also expunge convictions and set aside money to help communities impacted by the war on drugs.

Credit: 123RF.com/Rice University

“Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing and the ability to vote,” committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

“This is a promising piece of legislation that is notable for its emphasis on addressing the racial disparities created and exacerbated by the war on drugs, and not just the economics of cannabis reform,” said Katharine Neill Harris, a drug policy expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. She is available to discuss the issue with the news media.

“Setting aside the fact that the vast majority of marijuana convictions occur at the state level, and not the federal level, the proposal to expunge prior federal marijuana convictions is critical, and one that should be adopted at the state level as well,” said Neill Harris, who is the Alfred C. Glassell, III, Fellow in Drug Policy at the institute.

“If the MORE Act passes in the House, it will face significant hurdles in the Republican-controlled Senate, despite more conservative lawmakers voicing general support for cannabis reform,” she said. “But if this bill, or some form of it, is successful and cannabis possession is decriminalized at the federal level, I would expect to see more states relax their cannabis laws in response.

“Going forward, it is also critical to expand the conversation around drug reform to include other substances as well, as a focus solely on cannabis will limit our ability to adequately address the inequities that have been institutionalized by the drug war.”


The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media who want to schedule an interview with Neill Harris. For more information, contact Jeff Falk, director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.

Related materials:

Neill Harris bio: http://bakerinstitute.org/experts/katharine-neill

Follow the Baker Institute via Twitter @BakerInstitute.

Follow the Baker Institute’s Drug Policy Program via Twitter @BakerDrugPolicy.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top three university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blog.bakerinstitute.org.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.