Less than a week after an election that expanded cannabis legalization with voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota all approving ballot measures (not to mention Oregon voting to decriminalize all drugs), the Democrat-controlled Congress has announced they will vote on The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) next month.
The MORE Act would decriminalize cannabis and remove it as a Schedule I drug from the Controlled Substances Act, which would make it much simpler for states to push for legalization.
A December timeframe for the vote on the MORE Act was announced by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in a letter about the upcoming lame duck session: “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,” Hoyer wrote.
Back in September, The House of Representatives announced it was going to delay the planned vote on the MORE Act citing Covid-19 relief packages as more pressing (there is still no new Covid-19 relief package) and out of fear that a cannabis bill vote might be a political liability so close to the November election.
“The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform, and we are committed to bringing it to the Floor for a vote before the end of the year,” Hoyer said in a statement back in September. “Right now, the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Another reason the MORE Act was delayed: Hope that the Senate might flip, which would make it easier to pass the House and Senate. That did not happen and it is likely that a Republican-led Senate will not vote for the MORE Act. But now, one of The MORE Act’s sponsors, Kamala Harris, is the next Vice President. And along with the significant Biden/Harris victory, voters showed out in a number of states to vote for measures that legalized cannabis, including “red” states of Montana and South Dakota. On November 6, Rhode Island Senator Michael McCaffrey—who won reelection—pushed for cannabis legalization.
“The time has come to legalize adult cannabis use,” McCaffrey said. “We have studied this issue extensively, and we can incorporate the practices we’ve learned from other states.”
Legalization legislation is also expected to follow in Delaware, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia.