Legislation that would federally legalize pot and that focuses on social equity in the wake of cannabis prohibition has advanced in the U.S. this week.
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, paving the way for a full House of Representatives vote.
Federal cannabis legislation has been successful in passing the House in several instances but hasn’t cleared the Senate.
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) September 30, 2021
The bill passed with a 26–15 vote. Two Republicans joined 24 Democrats voting yes while 15 Republicans voted no.
Bill sponsor and committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler said he looks forward to bringing the MORE Act to the House floor once again.
“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only made it worse, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of colour,” he said in a statement.
“Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust.”
If passed, the MORE ACT would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act. In doing so, the conflict between state and federal laws would be eliminated and states would be responsible for their cannabis laws.
Further, the legislation would implement steps to redress the harm done by cannabis prohibition, including expunging some cannabis-related records, removing the threat of deportation of immigrants accused of minor cannabis offences and reinvesting in communities that have suffered from a disproportionate rate of cannabis enforcement.
Americans have the right to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. For people smoking marijuana, it's part of their pursuit of happiness yet the War on Drugs has deprived millions of their rights and purposely targeted & disenfranchised Hispanic, Black & White hippy Americans. pic.twitter.com/8wCcI3QRNW
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) September 30, 2021
In December, a version of the MORE Act passed in the House, but wasn’t taken up by the Senate controlled by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The 2021 version of the bill was reintroduced in the House in May.
While calling for an immediate full floor vote, NORML’s political director Justin Strekal noted unprecedented public support for Congress to end “the shameful experiment with marijuana prohibition.”
“The continued criminalization of marijuana by the federal government is an affront to our professed ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. By advancing the MORE Act, the House will demonstrate that the majority of our political leaders are ready to correct this injustice and enact cannabis policy reform that undoes the harms that have been inflicted upon millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
Recent polling conducted by Pew Research Centre found that 60 per cent of Americans believe cannabis should be legal for medical and recreational use.
Last week, another cannabis reform bill — the SAFE Banking Act — passed the House and is poised to be taken up in the Senate. This bill has similarly made it through the House several times without going further.
However, for the first time, the SAFE Banking Act was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which experts say could increase its chances of clearing the Senate.
However, while advocates support cannabis reform, some take issue with the SAFE Banking Act.
“The SAFE Banking Act does not contain provisions that speak to this constituency,” said Maritza Perez, Drug Policy Alliance’s director of the office of national affairs, in a recent email to Mugglehead.
“It is unclear what the odds of Senate passage are, but we want Senators to understand that a vote on the SAFE Banking bill will be seen as a vote for the cannabis industry over directly impacted people. If a piecemeal bill like SAFE becomes law, the concerns of equity advocates will be put on the backburner. But our communities cannot, and should not, have to wait for justice that is long overdue.”
Meanwhile, a draft discussion bill of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act has been introduced as a discussion draft. This legislation would also remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act.