“With all the marijuana-related bills pending this Congress — including the bipartisan STATES Act — you have unfortunately chosen to markup the MORE Act today. This bill is nearly devoid of bipartisan support, and it fails to address many critical issues surrounding the cultivation, distribution, sale and use of marijuana.” 

WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at today’s markup of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

Below are the remarks as prepared.

Ranking Member Collins: Mr. Chairman, you may recall that, in a letter I sent you in April and at a hearing the Crime Subcommittee held in July, I asked you to permit the committee to fully examine the issue of marijuana and its implications. Even Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden agrees, stating this past Saturday that marijuana legalization is “a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”

The implications of marijuana legalization include interstate commerce, states’ rights and the health and safety of all Americans — particularly adolescents and young adults. With all the marijuana-related bills pending this Congress — including the bipartisan STATES Act — you have unfortunately chosen to markup the MORE Act today. This bill is nearly devoid of bipartisan support, and it fails to address many critical issues surrounding the cultivation, distribution, sale and use of marijuana.

While this bill contains several problematic provisions, I am most concerned with what it fails to address. First and foremost, this bill fails to protect America’s greatest asset — our youth. Adolescents and young adults often fall victim to advertisers and social media influencers, as we have seen in the recent outbreak of serious teen vaping injuries. This bill fails to set any standards to prevent marijuana, THC concentrates, vaping products and edibles from getting into the hands of teenagers and young adults whose brains are still developing. Three months ago, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams echoed these views in an advisory on the health risks of marijuana use in adolescence and during pregnancy. He said “[r]ecent increases in access to marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of [the] safety of marijuana endanger our most precious resource, our nation’s youth.”

Over the past 10 years, the Department of Justice has provided, amended and withdrawn marijuana enforcement guidance to U.S. Attorneys in the form of the “Cole memos.” I agree that these changes in Justice Department policy have brought us to the difficult situation we are in now. However, the bill before us today fails to address the important issues contained in those memos. This includes preventing: the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing marijuana from moving beyond states where it’s legal, preventing violence and the use of firearms in growing or distributing marijuana, preventing drugged driving and preventing marijuana revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels.

Instead, this bill removes marijuana from federal criminal and regulatory jurisdiction and makes the states fend for themselves. A responsible, bipartisan approach would be for the states and the federal government to work in partnership — respecting states’ rights as well as the federal interests in health, safety and enforcement. Regrettably, Mr. Chairman, you chose to take a partisan course.

This bill is flawed in many other ways, but I want to reiterate the opinion of Attorney General Barr who stated earlier this year, “the current situation is untenable and really has to be addressed . . . [I]f we want a federal approach, if we want states to have their own laws, [then] let’s get there the right way.” The MORE Act is the wrong way. There is effective legislation before this committee that is more comprehensive, much less bureaucratic, and which actually stands a chance of becoming law. This bill is none of those things.