US House of Representatives to Vote on Momentous Cannabis Legalization Bill in September

September 8, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on a historic cannabis legalization bill in September, titled the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.

In September the United States House of Representatives will be voting on an extensive cannabis legalization bill, which has been labeled the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) has said in an email blast to members that the chamber is anticipated to take up the MORE Act during the “September work period” (1).

This historic bill would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of individuals with prior marijuana convictions, and also impose a federal 5% tax on sales. This added revenue would then be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war. Aside from these legislation terms, the MORE Act would create a new pathway to resentence individuals who were incarcerated for marijuana offenses, help protect immigrants from being denied US citizenship over cannabis, and restrain federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances because of its use.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said (1), “As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice.”

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, Human Rights Watch, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), ordered for a floor vote on the MORE Act to take place by the end of September. “Advancing this bill meets the principles of this political moment where millions of Americans are demanding changes to the status quo,” said Queen Adesuyi, policy manager for DPA (1). “House Democrats have the incredible opportunity to move a bill that enjoys bipartisan support while responding to the calls for justice reform and racial justice reverberating across the country.”

“We are facing challenging times in our fight for racial equity and law enforcement reform, and passing the MORE Act is crucial to addressing our country’s history of injustice,” Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said (1). “This is the next step in our goal of ending the harmful prohibition of cannabis in 2021.”

If the bill is passed by the House it still needs to pass the hurdle of a Republican-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) has become an advocate for hemp (2) but has held a relentless opposition to broader cannabis reform.

There is the possibility that the MORE Act passing in the House might ignite the Senate to bend on their stance a little bit and take up cannabis reform legislation such as the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act. This bill would grant states the opportunity to set their own cannabis policies without the fear of federal intervention. The MORE Act is gaining traction in support through Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) as the sole GOP cosponsor on the bill who approves removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and ending federal prohibition (3).

“Passage of The MORE Act is essential in order to truly right the wrongs of federal marijuana criminalization, and to once and for all allow the majority of states that have legalized cannabis for either medical or adult-use to embrace these policies free from the threat of undue federal prosecution or interference,” said Paul Armentano the Deputy Director of NORML (2).

While no official date has been set for this exciting floor vote, leading democrats have been hinting that the strongest step toward federal legalization of cannabis never before taken by Congress—the MORE Act—vote will take place around September 21st (4).

Editor's Note: Since this article was originally posted, an announcement was made that the vote will be delayed until after the election in November 2020.

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