House Schedules Vote on Marijuana Legalization in December

The House of Representatives has scheduled a vote to legalize marijuana immediately after lawmakers return from their Thanksgiving recess, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced on Friday.

Congress initially planned on taking up the matter in September, but the vote was delayed due to the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, introduced by Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) last year, “removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.”

The MORE Act also contains the following provisions:

      • replaces statutory references to marijuana and marijuana with cannabis,

      • requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees,

      • establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs,

      • imposes a 5% tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund,

      • makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers,

      • prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions,

      • prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction), and

      • establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.

Proponents of declassifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug – which the federal government considers the most addictive and harmful – say that the time has come to end the prohibition of the medicinal plant. Other Schedule I narctocs include “heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote,” according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Even if the MORE Act clears the House, it likely faces an enormous uphill battle in the culturally conservative Republican-led Senate. Nevertheless, supporters of reform are thrilled that change my finally be coming.

“National support for federal cannabis legalization is at an all-time high and almost 99% of Americans will soon live in states with some form of legal cannabis,” said Congressional Cannabis Caucus founder and co-chair Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). “Congress must capitalize on this momentum and do our part to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against communities of color.”

Under current policies, drug prohibition laws have disproportionately negative impacts on communities of color. This is true regarding enforcement of laws and how offenders are punished.

“By advancing the MORE Act, the House of Representatives sends an unmistakable signal that America is ready to close the book marijuana prohibition and end the senseless oppression and fear that this failed policy wreaks on otherwise law-abiding citizens,” said Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “Americans are ready to responsibly legalize and regulate marijuana, and this vote shows some lawmakers are finally listening.”

Fifty-three days until the inauguration.

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