Tag: MORE Act

After the Shakeout in Washington, D.C., How Likely Is Cannabis Legalization?

Well, our nation has had a very eventful 2021 thus far, huh? With federal elections finally decided, and a new president set to take office on January 20th, there is one burning question that the cannabis community wants answered: Will cannabis be legalized in the next two years? This is pure speculation on my part, but I would put the chances that federal cannabis legalization is signed into law within the next two years at about 33%, up to a coin flip at best. I do think that we have good odds of seeing much-needed reforms, such as opening up all banking services to state-legal cannabis laws and fixing the 280e IRS tax code that arbitrarily taxes regulated cannabis businesses at an exorbitant rate.

After the United States House passed the historic Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act late last year, most cannabis law reform advocates celebrated the victory as a great step in the right direction, but noted that passage in the Senate was unlikely with Republican Mitch McConnell in charge. After the Georgia special elections in favor of Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Democrat Chuck Schumer will soon be the Senate Majority Leader, and Schumer has pledged to make cannabis legalization a priority. Now, we know that we can’t always expect politicians to follow through on their promises, so it’ll be imperative that we continue to pressure our representatives and let them know that they need to do the right thing and follow the will of the voters, by ending federal cannabis prohibition.

While cannabis legalization should be a no-brainer with strong majority support from voters across the nation, the Senate filibuster rule that can force most bills to need 60 votes to pass will stand as a huge obstacle to passing. The 60 votes could be overcome with some compromises and political horse trading, but Democratic leadership will need to really fight for legalization, and my hunch is that our elected officials will be busy with other issues regarding our health and economy, to place too much political capital in pushing through a legalization bill.

The cannabis community should be emboldened by our political position and strength and work hard to celebrate some major victories around banking, taxes, and other issues that will benefit us, and the nation at large. If we want local craft cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf to fully thrive, we need common sense reforms to pass. Success then begets success, and step by step, we’ll see legalization bills get closer and closer to passage, and if all things go right, we can see federal legalization pass in the near future. I hope that I’m too pessimistic about passage within the next two years, but I’m certainly optimistic about continuing to make good progress, step by step.

New Poll: Voters Prefer Candidates that Support Cannabis Legalization

The passage of the MORE Act, the historic bill that would end federal cannabis prohibition, was a major milestone for the cannabis community, and it fulfilled a campaign promise by United States House of Representatives leadership. However, a new poll out finds that House leaders made a mistake of postponing a vote on the measure until after the November general election. While political opponents have criticized MORE Act supporters for passing the bill while the nation faces so many serious issues related to the COVID pandemic, polling shows that, SURPRISE, voters prefer candidates that support issues with strong majority support, such as cannabis legalization.

Marijuana Moment reported on the poll commissioned by Data For Progress, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement and New Deal Strategies. The survey questioned 1,375 likely voters in 13 congressional swing districts:

Asked whether they support legalizing cannabis for adult use, 57 percent of respondents in the swing districts said they did. That includes 71 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents and 38 percent of Republicans.

What’s more, “marijuana legalization—a major progressive proposal—appears to additionally be a popular persuasion policy for independent voters” whose support could make or break tight races. And while only just over one-third of Republican voters said they favor the policy change in this survey, that is still an important figure, the groups said.

“This significant and growing support for marijuana legalization across party lines demonstrates clear potential for the Democratic Party to capitalize on the popularity of marijuana legalization as a key part of their policy agenda,” they wrote said.

Let this be a lesson to politicians. Cannabis legalization is a winning issue. Do not be afraid of supporting a policy that has strong majority support across our nation. The upcoming Georgia special election determining control of the U.S. Senate will be a decent test of this theory with Democrats Reverend Ralph Warnock and Joel Ossoff supporting legalization while Republican Kelly Loeffler has criticized the the MORE Act and her fellow Republican Senator David Perdue hasn’t supported legalization either. With the GOP’s Mitch McConnell blocking cannabis legalization legislation as Senate President, based upon polling the Democrats would be wise to highlight the need to end prohibition, while the Georgia Republican Senators should rethink their support of the failed, harmful, and unpopular policy of prohibition.

HISTORIC: United States House Votes to End Federal Cannabis Prohibition

The fight to end cannabis prohibition has been a state by state battle, with advocates even turning towards local decriminalization or even “lowest law enforcement priority” measures over the past several decades. Starting with Oregon decriminalizing personal amounts back in 1973, the cannabis reform movement was jump started by California legalizing medicinal use in 1998, and then the dam really started to break when Colorado and Washington legalized adult use in 2012, and now, we have FINALLY garnered a positive vote to end prohibition at the federal level.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passed 228 to 164 today along a mostly party line vote, with five Republicans joining the right side of history and six Democrats clinging to the failed policy of prohibition. Even though the MORE Act is unlikely to pass the Mitch McConnell-controlled Senate during this lame duck 2020 session, a few Senate seats changing hands in the next couple of years, could pave the way in that chamber. And with the next Vice President a co-sponsor, it seems like passage in the near future is within our grasp.

Cannabis community, today is a day for celebration. The People’s House has finally voted along with the will of the people. We are the supermajority and we have taken the next steps towards achieving freedom and equality across our nation. This is a joyous milestone and a great achievement for everyone that has been working to reform our unjust cannabis laws. Soon, it’s back to work.

Oregon’s Representative Earl Blumenauer deserves about as much credit as anyone for the passage of the MORE Act, and he released this statement following its passage:

House Passes Historic Cannabis Reform Legislation

The MORE Act would end the failed federal cannabis prohibition and ensure restorative justice

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation supported by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to end the federal prohibition of cannabis and ensure restorative justice for those impacted by it. 

Although cannabis will soon be legal in 15 states for adult use and in 36 states for medical use, it remains criminalized at the federal level, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and wasting billions of dollars on the selective enforcement of an outdated and harmful system. Today’s historic vote – the bill passed the House 228 – 164 – marked the first time a full chamber of Congress voted to end this prohibition.

“I have worked on this issue for 47 years,” Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said on the House floor on Friday, prior to the final vote. “We’re here because we have failed three generations of Black and Brown young people, whose lives can be ruined, or lost, by selective enforcement of these laws. This legislation will end that disaster. It’s time for Congress to step up and do its part. We need to catch up with the rest of the American people.”

The continued enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws results in over 600,000 arrests annually, disproportionately impacting people of color who are almost four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts, despite equal rates of use across populations. Too often, cases of low-level cannabis possession escalate to police violence. For many, the selective enforcement of cannabis prohibition becomes a matter of life and death.  
 

People of color have also been historically targeted by discriminatory prosecution and sentencing practices. Black men receive drug sentences that are 13.1 percent longer than sentences imposed for white men. Latinos are nearly 6.5 times more likely to receive a federal sentence for cannabis possession than non-Hispanic whites. Once released, people of color often continue to be robbed of their dignity, as having a felony conviction can impact the ability to get an education, secure gainful employment, or vote.

The MORE Act centers racial justice by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level and enacting other policies, including:  

  • Expungement and resentencing: Requires federal courts to expunge marijuana arrests and convictions and resentence those still in custody or under court supervision for a marijuana offense, pursuant to a judicial review process. 
  • Immigration reform: In 2013, simple cannabis possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any offense and the most common cause of deportation for drug law violations. The MORE Act ensures that marijuana is no longer considered a controlled substance for purposes of the immigration laws—and does so retroactively. 
  • Non-discrimination protections: Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense. 
  • Juvenile protection: Ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juveniles arrested and convicted. 

The MORE Act also centers economic justice by ensuring that people of color are not shut out of the emerging regulated cannabis marketplace and reinvesting in communities most impacted by prohibition.

Legal cannabis sales totaled $9.5 billion in 2017 and are projected to reach $23 billion by 2022. However, fewer than one-fifth of cannabis business owners identify as minorities and only approximately four percent are Black. One reason for this gap is the historically disproportionate arrest and conviction rates that make it particularly difficult for people of color to enter the legal cannabis marketplace. 

In order to address inequalities in the legal cannabis marketplace and ensure equal participation in the industry, the MORE Act supports:  

  • Restorative Justice Programs: Authorizes the assessment of a five percent excise tax on sales of marijuana and marijuana products to fund programs like reentry services and substance use treatment. 
  • Equitable Business Access: Fund programs to open up opportunities for loans to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and for states to implement equitable cannabis licensing programs. The MORE Act also requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure equitable participation. 
  • Small Business Support: Currently, federal law severely limits access to loans and capital for cannabis businesses, disproportionately impacting minority small business owners. The MORE Act would open Small Business Administration resources for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers. 

The full text of the legislation (H.R.3884) is available here

Video of Blumenauer speaking on the House floor earlier today about the MORE Act can be found here.

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I was so happy to receive this kind, thoughtful email that Representative Blumenauer sent to Oregon cannabis law reform advocates:

Dear friends, 

Having just stepped off the floor of the House after voting for, and then witnessing the passage of the MORE Act, I wanted to express how much I appreciate your long-standing support and partnership. This was a truly historic vote and one that builds further momentum for our shared goal: federal legalization of cannabis. 

Yesterday, as I presided over the debate on this bill, I couldn’t help but recall the many conversations, conference calls, roundtable meetings—and yes, Zoom calls—I’ve had with Oregon’s cannabis community. Going all the way back to 2014 when Oregonians voted to legalize adult-use, and even in decades before then, you’ve provided me with thoughtful, pragmatic, and expert guidance. 

We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. It’s an important step towards rationalizing the policy. And while it’s a moment to celebrate, there is still more work to do. I look forward to continuing our partnership in the months ahead as a new session of Congress gets underway and we successfully eliminate the federal laws that restrict cannabis. 

But for right now, I just wanted to say thank you for your generous support and engagement in this fight. I deeply appreciate it. 

Courage, 

Earl  

Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer Comments on Congressional Cannabis Legalization Vote

The United States House of Representatives debated the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today and tomorrow a historic vote to end federal cannabis prohibition is expected. Portland, Oregon’s very own Earl Blumenauer presided over today’s proceedings, wearing a facemask adorned with cannabis leaves. Congressman Blumenauer stated that he has been waiting on this moment in Congress for 47 years as he was a young legislator voting to help make Oregon the first state to decriminalize cannabis all the way back in 1973.

No matter where you stand on his other politics, Representative Blumenauer has been a great leader on cannabis issues. He has worked across the aisle with Republicans and has joined forces with conservative and libertarian activists when they could join forces to push for much-needed reforms like banking access and an end to the 280e tax code that severely hinders cannabis businesses.

As a political realist, I understand that passage of the MORE Act won’t happen in the Senate this year and it faces an uphill battle unless Senate leadership changes. However, as an advocate with more than two decades of experience fighting to legalize cannabis and end the failed and racist Drug War, I cannot be overjoyed by the prospect of the United States House of Representatives voting to end cannabis prohibition. I’m crossing my fingers for a strong vote tomorrow and my heart is full of gratitude for everyone that has put in any work to end the war being waged upon the cannabis community.

Representative Earl Blumenauer’s full press release today:

House to Vote on Historic Cannabis Reform Legislation

The MORE Act would end the failed federal cannabis prohibition and ensure restorative justice

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation supported by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to end the federal prohibition of cannabis and ensure restorative justice for those impacted by it. 

Although cannabis will soon be legal in 15 states for adult use and in 36 states for medical use, it remains criminalized at the federal level, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and wasting billions of dollars on the selective enforcement of an outdated and harmful system. The historic vote on Friday marks the first time a full chamber of Congress will vote to end this prohibition.

“I have been waiting for this historic moment for a long time. It is happening today because it has been demanded by the voters, by facts, and by the momentum behind this issue. This is an opportunity to strike a blow against the failed war on drugs, that has literally destroyed hundreds of thousands of young Black lives,” Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said on the House floor. “We are still arresting or citing 600,000 people a year for something that the majority of Americans now think should be legal. That’s why the voters in this country took it into their own hands. That is why today, 99 percent of the American population has some access to legalized cannabis. The MORE Act will help us set up a system moving forward.”

The continued enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws results in over 600,000 arrests annually, disproportionately impacting people of color who are almost four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts, despite equal rates of use across populations. Too often, cases of low-level cannabis possession escalate to police violence. For many, the selective enforcement of cannabis prohibition becomes a matter of life and death.  
 

People of color have also been historically targeted by discriminatory prosecution and sentencing practices. Black men receive drug sentences that are 13.1 percent longer than sentences imposed for white men. Latinos are nearly 6.5 times more likely to receive a federal sentence for cannabis possession than non-Hispanic whites. Once released, people of color often continue to be robbed of their dignity, as having a felony conviction can impact the ability to get an education, secure gainful employment, or vote.

The MORE Act centers racial justice by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level and enacting other policies, including:  

  • Expungement and resentencing: Requires federal courts to expunge marijuana arrests and convictions and resentence those still in custody or under court supervision for a marijuana offense, pursuant to a judicial review process. 
  • Immigration reform: In 2013, simple cannabis possession was the fourth most common cause of deportation for any offense and the most common cause of deportation for drug law violations. The MORE Act ensures that marijuana is no longer considered a controlled substance for purposes of the immigration laws—and does so retroactively. 
  • Non-discrimination protections: Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense. 
  • Juvenile protection: Ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juveniles arrested and convicted. 

The MORE Act also centers economic justice by ensuring that people of color are not shut out of the emerging regulated cannabis marketplace and reinvesting in communities most impacted by prohibition.

Legal cannabis sales totaled $9.5 billion in 2017 and are projected to reach $23 billion by 2022. However, fewer than one-fifth of cannabis business owners identify as minorities and only approximately four percent are Black. One reason for this gap is the historically disproportionate arrest and conviction rates that make it particularly difficult for people of color to enter the legal cannabis marketplace. 

In order to address inequalities in the legal cannabis marketplace and ensure equal participation in the industry, the MORE Act supports:  

  • Restorative Justice Programs: Authorizes the assessment of a five percent excise tax on sales of marijuana and marijuana products to fund programs like reentry services and substance use treatment. 
  • Equitable Business Access: Fund programs to open up opportunities for loans to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and for states to implement equitable cannabis licensing programs. The MORE Act also requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure equitable participation. 
  • Small Business Support: Currently, federal law severely limits access to loans and capital for cannabis businesses, disproportionately impacting minority small business owners. The MORE Act would open Small Business Administration resources for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers. 

A full vote on the MORE Act is expected Friday, December 4.

The full text of the legislation (H.R.3884) is available here

Featured photo credit: Earl Blumenauer’s Facebook page.

Federal Cannabis Legalization Vote Expected This Week

About a month after cannabis legalization won big at the 2020 ballot box across the nation, the United States House of Representatives is now expected to finally follow the will of the people and vote on ending cannabis this week. With a supermajority of Americans now favoring legalization, it certainly seems that now is the time for the U.S. House to cast a historic vote against a failed and racist war that has been waged for far to long against the cannabis community.

Pete Danko of the Portland Business Journal reported:

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer late last week advised members that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act — the MORE Act — would be among bills taken up by the House sometime between Wednesday evening and Friday.

The bill would de-schedule cannabis, expunge many convictions, tax sales at 5%, invest in grant programs with a heavy focus on social equity and give cannabis businesses access to Small Business Administration loans.

The Congressional Cannabis Caucus, co-founded and co-chaired by Oregon’s own Earl Blumenauer issued a letter to their House colleagues, urging them to pass the MORE Act to take a big step towards ending the federal War on Drugs. Blumenauer, along with co-chair Barbara Lee, stated that “This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.”

While passage in the Senate isn’t likely so long as Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell is in charge, it will be a big historic moment for the United States House of Representatives, the People’s House, to vote to legalize cannabis. Passage of the MORE Act will be one more step to ending a failed Drug War policy, and one more step towards freedom and equality for the cannabis community. Please contact your representative and urge them to support ending the harmful policy of cannabis prohibition.

The CCC’s full letter to House Colleagues:

Dear Colleague:  

One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws. There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end soon. We should lead the way by passing H.R.3884 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.  

Last week’s results reaffirm the strong bipartisan support to reform our failed cannabis prohibition. Even in states where Republicans easily swept elections, like in Mississippi and South Dakota, cannabis-related ballot measures passed with strong support. The success in Arizona, Montana, Mississippi, New Jersey and South Dakota means that cannabis will be legal for adult use in 15 states and medical use in 36 states. More than 109 million people will live in states where cannabis is legal for adults to use, that is more than one in three Americans. In total, almost 99% of Americans will live in states with some form of legal cannabis. We cannot ignore the will of the people any longer.   

This comes as no surprise—national support for federal cannabis legalization is at an all-time high, and trends show that support will continue to grow. Polling from the Pew Research Center shows that 67% of registered voters think “the use of cannabis should be made legal,” and the Center for American Progress found that 73% support expunging the records of those previously convicted of cannabis-related offenses. This finding is confirmed by the fact that in the last three elections, 16 of the 18 pro-cannabis reform ballot initiatives were successful—even in places like Utah and Mississippi. 

This past election further demonstrated that cannabis reform is popular, non-partisan, and the just thing to do as states have also made clear their commitment to restorative justice. Montana, which ranks first in the country for having the largest racial disparities for cannabis arrests will allow an individual currently serving a sentence for a prior low-level cannabis offense to apply for resentencing or an expungement of the conviction. 

The recent success of cannabis reform in states around the country should give us a new sense of urgency to ensure Congress catches up with the American people. This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and Brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.

The House was poised to vote on the MORE Act, the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation we’ve ever seen, back in September. As the House kept our focus on providing struggling Americans with relief from COVID-19, we received commitment from our Caucus leadership that Congress would take steps to end the failed war on drugs by voting on the MORE Act before the year was over.   

We have an opportunity and duty to correct course now. As we head into the lame-duck session, we must remember the promise we made to the American people to pass the MORE Act. 

Thank you for your urgency.

United States House Plans Cannabis Legalization Vote Next Month

The United States House made the erroneous decision to NOT vote on ending federal cannabis prohibition before the November 3rd elections, only to see state legalization bills pass across the nation. Now, with public support at an all-time high, a vote is expected in December, according to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who announced that the “House will vote on the MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis and expunge convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses that have prevented many Americans from getting jobs, applying for credit and loans, and accessing opportunities that make it possible to get ahead in our economy.”

Fox 17 reported:

Under the bill, marijuana would be removed from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and criminal penalties for those who manufacture, distribute, or possess marijuana would be eliminated.

In addition, the bill would impose a 5% tax on cannabis products to be deposited in a trust fund which would support various programs to communities impacted by the war on drugs. Among other actions, it would also expunge convictions related to federal cannabis offenses.

***

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also created a message form for those who support the bill to contact their local representative. The organization says passage of the bill would help end racial disparities in marijuana arrest rates.

While passage of the bill is uncertain, especially in the Senate, it will be a historic event to just hold the vote. The House passing the bill, which is very likely, will be another huge step forward in our fight for freedom. You can use the ACLU’s message form, or contact your legislators directly to help continue our momentum in our fight for freedom and equality.

The Strongest Presidential Cannabis Position Ever Unveiled at the VP Debate

The Mike Pence-Kamala Harris vice-presidential debate didn’t have the same fireworks as the Trump-Biden debate, but there was plenty of interruptions, dodging of questions, and an iconic fly that took over the internet. Also, the best federal cannabis policy ever proposed by a presidential ticket was mentioned. While the position doesn’t go far enough, it was big step in the right direction and was a historic development for the cannabis community, when Kamala Harris made the first mention of cannabis during the two debates that have been held thus far, as Reason reported:

“We will decriminalize marijuana and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana,” she said.

The position is the strongest any major-party candidate for president or vice president has taken to date on the issue in such a prominent venue.

Though former Vice President Biden has historically resisted calls to ease up on drug enforcement, he seems to have turned on the issue this election cycle, telling supporters in May 2019 that “nobody should be in jail for smoking marijuana.” Most recently, Harris reiterated the position in a virtual town hall on September 14, assuring viewers that a Biden-Harris administration would “end incarceration for drug use alone.” Campaign aide Symone Sanders said the same in an August 29 interview on MSNBC.

While it is understandably difficult to trust virtually any politician, especially those that made their careers arresting and jailing people for cannabis, there is reason to be optimistic this time around. For starters, politicians, regardless of their past positions, want to win and a strong majority of voters now support ending federal prohibition. Further, Kamala Harris is a sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) that will ultimately legalize cannabis nationwide. Regardless of where you stand on the better presidential ticket, it is clear that the cannabis community has made serious progress on the national stage.

Cannabis and COVID, Where We Stand Today

Unfortunately, the coronavirus still dominates the daily news in the United States, especially with President Trump and a lot of his inner circle in quarantine or isolation following the outbreak of a COVID cluster at the White House. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about our current political and cultural circumstances regarding the pandemic, it is clear that our society will be dealing with the health and economic ramifications of the coronavirus for some time.

Of course, the impact of COVID was front at center at the first presidential debate and will be featured heavily at the first vice-presidential debate tonight, it is always disappointing when cannabis is ignored by our national politicians. While some may argue that there are much bigger issues concerning our nation than cannabis, the truth of the matter is that cannabis impacts so many of our lives, even those that don’t utilize it for medicine or recreation.

Cannabis businesses have been one of the few bright spots during our economic recession and many more people are turning towards medical cannabis for relief. Additionally, there are still hundreds of thousands of people still getting arrested across the nation, disproportionately communities of color, as we needlessly ruin lives and set taxpayer dollars on fire. Not to mention the fact that there are important statewide legalization measures on the 2020 ballot.

With Kamala Harris, a co-sponsor of the MORE Act, a federal legalization bill on the Democratic ticket, hopefully there will be a question about cannabis at the VP debate, but I won’t hold my breath. Also, sure to be ignored, as it continues to be ignored by mainstream news outlets, are the medicinal benefits of cannabis medicines, even those that could show promise combatting the coronavirus.

Small cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf are economic engines for communities across our nation. They are creating jobs during an economic crisis, providing medicine during a pandemic, and generating revenue for much-needed social services, while being denied access to banking and normal tax deductions. It’s time that politicians reflect the will of the people and give the cannabis community the attention and respect that it deserves.

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.

History Made: Cannabis Legalization Bill Passes House Committee

Positive federal cannabis law reforms move forward step by step, person by person, as elected officials and policymakers start to catch up to the will of the voters. It took several tries through Congress to pass a budget provision protecting state-legal cannabis patients and providers from federal prosecution, but now this protection is a common yearly budget rider.

We’re still looking for the U.S. Senate to pass similar legislation for adult-use consumers and retailers, but we’ve passed such a measure through the House, after a couple of attempts; same thing for the SAFE Banking Act that will allow cannabis businesses’ access to banking services. Today, history was made as a bill to deschedule cannabis, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed the House Judiciary Committee with a bipartisan 24-10 vote.

As usual, Marijuana Moment was on top of the breaking news:

The approved legislation, introduced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions and impose a 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 clearance due to its use.

“These steps are long overdue. For far too long we’ve treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health,” Nadler said in his opening remarks. “Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people at the federal level is unwise and unjust.”

With two-thirds of American adults wanting to put an end to federal prohibition, it is only a matter of time before legalization becomes the law of the land. However, the Reefer Madness prohibitionists in power won’t go down without a fight. We must continue supporting advocates, organizations, and elected officials that are on the right side of history. Most importantly, the cannabis community just needs to keep speaking the truth.