Now What: U.S. House Judiciary Committee Passes MORE Act

In historic first step toward federal cannabis legalization, House Judiciary Committee Passes MORE Act. The act is designed to correct the wrongs of War on Drugs, bringing much needed support to communities most affect by cannabis criminalization.

By Melissa Hutsell

On Wednesday, Nov. 20, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary voted in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (MORE). 

The passage of MORE marks the first time in history that a congressional committee voted in favor of ending federal prohibition, reports Green Mark Report. 

MORE would make three important changes to federal law, according to the Judiciary Committee. Those include: removing cannabis from the federal controlled substances list, expunging federal convictions and arrests, and authorizing an excise tax that would help “address the needs of communities that have been most seriously impacted by the War on Drugs.”

“I’m Just a Bill, Sitting on Capital Hill…”

The move is one of the first steps taken in the process of making a bill into a law. Now, MORE is expected to be sent to the congressional floor where it will amended, debated, and voted on again. If passed, it will ultimately be sent to the President for review. The President can then sign it (making it law), send it back to Congress for amendment, pocket veto, or veto it. If vetoed, it goes back to Congress, where it needs two-thirds approval before it becomes law.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, and sponsor of the bill, is hopeful that the current Congress will vote on the act before the end of the 116th chamber in 2021.

MORE has potential to pass in the House, where Democrats currently have a majority. In the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, it’s expected have a tougher battle considering members like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, oppose legalization. In fact, according to a recent Rolling Stone, “[…] the gatekeepers to any federal cannabis legislation [are]: Republican Senators Mike Crapo (ID), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY).”

In a press conference before the vote, committee members stated the act’s intention to decriminalize cannabis, and correct decades of injustice caused by the failed War on Drugs. 

“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake,” Nadler stated. “While states have led the way in reform, our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change.” 

Kamala Harris, D-CA, who sponsored a similar bill in the Senate, applauded the passage of the act, and highlighted the urgency to remove cannabis convictions and provide critical support to communities of color. 

If passed, the bill would effectively decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, and leave state’s to regulate policy. It could also allow social equity programs, and canna-businesses to receive financial support in the form of loans, grants, etc. from entities like The Small Businesses Administration. But, whether the “gatekeepers of cannabis legalization” will release their hold on the masses remains to be seen as we await Congress’ next vote. Until then, in the words of Schoolhouse Rock, it’s “just bill sitting on capital hill.”

 

Emerald contributor since February 2016

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