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March 07, 2023

Trone Introduces Two Bipartisan Agriculture Bills to Promote Second Chances for Returning Citizens


March 7, 2023

Contact: Sloane Gallagher,  

Trone Introduces Two Bipartisan Agriculture Bills to Promote Second Chances for Returning Citizens

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman David Trone (D-MD), Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Second Chance Task Force, introduced two bills under the Agriculture Improvement Act or “Farm Bill,” to expand economic opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals. Far too often, returning citizens face unnecessary financial barriers after they are released from prison, which is shown to substantially increase recidivism rates. These bills would rescind punitive restrictions for those with criminal records in order and give them a fairer chance to build a career – while strengthening our local economies. 

Trone is joined by Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA) in introducing the SNAP Second Chance Act of 2023. The bill would limit the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) authority to deny small business owners with a previous criminal conviction the opportunity to become Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers. Trone created the bill after meeting with constituent and business owner, Altimont Mark Wilks, a returning citizen and owner of Carmen’s Corner Store in Frederick. Wilks has struggled to qualify for SNAP retailer eligibility because of his past, making it significantly harder to serve the low-income patrons who rely on his store everyday and build his business. To learn more about Wilks’ story, click here

Additionally, Trone is joined by Representatives David Joyce (R-OH), Nancy Mace (R-SC), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) in introducing the Free to Grow Act, which aims to end the unfair drug felony prohibition for hemp farmers. Despite the fact that Congress legalized hemp farming under the Farm Bill in 2018, the law prohibits people with a felony drug conviction within the past 10 years from cultivating hemp. This is especially troublesome considering that the annual value of U.S. hemp production has grown to over $800 million. By preventing formerly incarcerated individuals from participating in a growing industry, we are further exacerbating their potential inability to start a business and thrive financially.

“Even though employment is the number one indicator of decreased recidivism, returning citizens are still unemployed at a rate of over 27 percent. To make matters worse, after paying their debts to society, returning citizens are prohibited from doing what’s best for their business or pursuing a career path of their choice — that’s not justice,” said Congressman David Trone, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Second Chance Task Force. “In my business, I hired over 500 returning citizens because I know giving folks a real second chance leads to economic growth and a better community. It’s wrong to keep folks from rebuilding their lives — these bills fix that.”

“Today, hardworking small business owners right here in Orange County, and across the country, can be denied their SNAP Retailer authorization because of a past criminal record–and it’s simply unacceptable,” said Congressman Lou Correa. “This policy unjustly declines millions of Americans their fair shot at a second chance, and at their opportunity to achieve the American dream. With this bill, folks who have paid their debts will have a real second chance — to help themselves and their communities thrive.”

“Outdated federal cannabis laws continue to create barriers to innovation and hinder economic development, even in industries that deal with the federally legalized and non-intoxicating part of the plant,” said Congressman David Joyce. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Free to Grow Act which will rightfully allow more Americans to participate in the federally legalized hemp industry without government interference and stigmatization.”

“While hemp production was federally legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill, the industry’s growth is being stunted by red tape, discriminatory policy, and regulatory uncertainty,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “The upcoming Farm Bill gives Congress a once-in-five-years opportunity to correct the unfair policy that bans people with drug convictions from growing hemp. I am proud to join Reps. Trone, Joyce, and Mace in that effort by introducing the Free to Grow Act, addressing this injustice and supporting a thriving hemp economy.”

“Reentering society after paying your debts is hard enough. Let’s not put more restrictions on an already legal business for these peoples. Hemp is legal and used for a variety of circumstances, including stress and skin conditions,” said Congresswoman Nancy Mace. “The bipartisan Free to Grow Act will lift this prohibition on the restriction and allow those formerly incarcerated to thrive in the hemp industry.”

“Over the past few years, our farms and agricultural industries have suffered critical labor shortages, leaving them unable to keep up with demand. The Free to Grow Act will invite more individuals to join the workforce since the status quo limits those with a drug conviction from cultivating an important agricultural crop: hemp,” said Anthony Lamorena, Senior Federal Affairs Manager at the R Street Institute. “At the R Street Institute, we believe that after individuals serve their time and pay their dues they should be allowed to prosper and help further contribute to our society. The SNAP Second Chance Act will do just that by allowing small business owners with criminal records to be able to redeem SNAP benefits. We thank Congressman David Trone for introducing this important legislation and we are happy to support these efforts.” 

The SNAP Second Chance Act is endorsed by Americans for Prosperity, Dream.Org, Due Process Institute, R St Institute, and Successful Reentry.

The Free to Grow Act is endorsed by Americans for Prosperity, DREAM.Org, Drug Policy Alliance, Due Process Institute, Minorities for Medical Marijuana Cannabis & Hemp Policy, R St Institute, U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

For the Free to Grow Act bill text, click here.

For the Free to Grow Act one-pager, click here.

For the SNAP Second Chance Act bill text, click here.

For the SNAP Second Chance Act one-pager, click here

Congressman David Trone was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018 to serve the 6th District of Maryland, which includes all or part of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties. Trone serves on the Appropriations, Budget, and Joint Economic Committees in the 118th Congress. In Congress, Trone is fighting to make progress on issues that matter to Marylanders, including the mental health and addiction crises, criminal justice reform, and funding for medical research.

Follow Congressman Trone at @RepDavidTrone for updates on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.