cannabis legalization

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on cannabis legalization via the MORE Act in two weeks on Monday, Sept. 21st. 

House Majority Steny Hoyer (D-MD) recently announced the vote’s date in a letter to Members of the House. This would be a historical first. 

“I’m pleased to bring the MORE Act to the House Floor next month to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level,” Hoyer said. “This legislation is an important step to correct the disproportionate impact our criminal justice system has had on communities of color.”

Cannabis advocates are pleased.

“We’re hopeful that the House of Representatives will take the necessary first step of passing the MORE Act,” said ACLU-NJ Campaign Strategist Ami Kachalia.

Cannabis legalization will “help restore justice to millions by decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records of nonviolent federal cannabis convictions,” according to Hoyer’s letter.

The bill is H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY). It passed the Judiciary Committee last year in a bipartisan vote. The bill has 93 co-sponsors in the House. For reference, it needs 218 votes to pass. Among those 93 is Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12) and Don Payne Jr. (D-NJ-10).

In the Senate, the cannabis legalization bill is sponsored by Democratic Vice Presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Haris (D-CA) and co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ed Markey (D-MA).

The MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act list of narcotics, expunge the records of those with cannabis-related convictions, and impose a federal sales tax of five percent on cannabis sales devoted to communities hit the hardest by the War on Drugs. It would also help immigrants in danger of being denied citizenship due to cannabis and stop federal agencies from denying benefits due to cannabis.

“Nationally, unjust marijuana laws at the state and federal level result in almost 700,000 marijuana-related arrests each year, funneling people into the criminal legal system and causing collateral consequences that can last a lifetime,” said Karchalla.

However, cannabis legalization is not likely to be taken up the Senate and signed into law. While interested in the possibilities of hemp, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) does not support cannabis legalization.

The SAFE Banking Act to help cannabis-related businesses with help securing banking passed the House last year by an overwhelming majority. However, it has yet to be voted on in the Senate. 

Many bills passed the House and died in the Senate before ultimately passing. Thus, whatever happens, it is a sign of progress.