Justice Delayed: Cannabis Legalization Vote Postponed Until After the Election

It has been widely reported that the United States House of Representatives was going to vote on a cannabis legalization bill this month. Apparently, after a pushback from moderates, no vote will occur this month or next month. A vote on the MORE Act to end federal cannabis prohibition is now expected after the November 3rd election, during the lame duck session.

Politico reported how legislators were starting to get cold feet on holding a vote on legalization, despite broad public support:

Removing federal penalties for marijuana looked like an easy win for Democrats two weeks ago, but the momentum has stalled.

Democrats have been scared off by Republicans’ use of the marijuana bill to bludgeon Democrats on the lack of a coronavirus deal, and moderates in tight races worry it will be linked to hits they’re already taking over the “defund the police” movement. So instead of embracing the progressive messaging of this bill as an election win, House leaders are now thinking about punting marijuana until after November 3.

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Marijuana legalization has far-reaching national support from Democrats, independents and even a majority of Republicans, multiple polls show. Democrats have touted the MORE Act all summer as a criminal justice reform bill, amid ongoing protests over racial equity that a majority of the public supports. A disproportionate number of Black or brown people are arrested for cannabis possession each year, and this bill aims to reduce arrests and erase some marijuana criminal records.

Marijuana Moment got confirmation that a vote had been postponed:

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), cochair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said on Wednesday that she was open to delaying the vote if it meant that more members would sign onto it, but she also told Marijuana Moment that lawmakers would be “doing everything we can over the next week to build broad coalitions of support to ensure that happens sooner rather than later.”

The MORE Act would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a federal five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war.

It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, as well as protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to its use.

It’s a serious shame that election-year politics is complicating a historic vote to end federal cannabis prohibition. It’s a shame first and foremost because legalization is simply the right thing to do. Too many people are still having their lives ruined by cannabis arrests and too many small businesses operating legally under state law, are hindered by federal laws that deprive them of banking services and arbitrarily overtaxes them above and beyond what other businesses must endure.

It’s rather nonsensical that politics is disrupting a vote on the MORE Act because voters overwhelmingly support cannabis legalization. Yes, voters are more concerned about other issues, but a vote to end prohibition doesn’t prevent Congress from passing any other bills. Has anyone ever punished a politician for passing a bill that they actually support? Just a maddening move by the United States House.

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) just released the following statement on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act:

“As Americans confront hundreds of years of systemic racial injustice, ending the failed war on drugs that has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown Americans must be front and center. As co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, our goal has always been a vote on federal marijuana legalization and restorative justice this Congress. We have worked to build support for this historic legislation and expected a vote next week. Thankfully, the leadership has now given an ironclad commitment that the House will consider the bill this fall. The public deserves this vote and we will continue to build support to meet our objective of passing the MORE Act in the House and sending it to the Senate, which is one step closer to enacting it into law.”

In spite of the delay, the cannabis community can still take solace knowing that the first legalization vote in history will be held sooner, rather than later. It’s taken a long time for Congress to catch up with the American people on cannabis, another month or two isn’t going to set us back too much. We’ve been fighting for freedom and equality for decades now, we aren’t about to be stopped.

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