Tag: MORE Act

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.