A pending bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level is gaining bipartisan support as a vote on the measure scheduled in the House of Representatives next week approaches. Under the bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, cannabis would be removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act, allowing the states to set their own marijuana policy.
“Momentum continues to build towards a successful vote in the House,” said Justin Strekal, the political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in a press release. “The American public will look favorably upon the bipartisan majority that would vote to pass the MORE Act.”
The bill (H.R. 3884) was introduced in the House in July 2019 by Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate’s version of The MORE Act (S. 2227) is sponsored by California Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president.
In late August, House Majority Whip Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina wrote in a statement that during the week of September 21, “the House will take up Chairman Nadler’s MORE Act to help restore justice to millions by decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records of nonviolent federal cannabis convictions.”
The MORE Act would also make other changes to federal law, including a provision that would make legal cannabis companies eligible for support from the Small Business Administration. The measure would also allow Veterans Administration physicians to write recommendations for patients in states that have legalized medical marijuana, as well. The bill also includes provisions that incentivize states to expunge marijuana convictions.
Bill Has Strong Support In The House
The bill now has more than 100 co-sponsors in the House, including Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, the Democratic chairs of key legislative committees, and one Republican, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Two more Republicans have also indicated that they will support the measure in next week’s vote.
Gaetz and California Rep. Tom McClintock were the only two Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who voted in favor of The MORE Act in November, the first time in history cannabis decriminalization legislation was advanced by federal lawmakers. After next week’s vote was announced, McClintock told Politico that he would continue to support the bill.
“Of course I intend to vote yes on the bill,” McClintock said. “With respect to timing, I do find it ironic that the only small businesses the Democrats seem to be worried about is cannabis shops, but I would support this bill whenever it is brought to a vote.”
And last week, Rep. Don Young, a Republican from Alaska, told public radio that he too would support The More Act.
“It’s a big vote,” said Young. “And we’re going to pass that, I’m confident.”
Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, co-Chairman of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a press release that the time is right for a change in federal cannabis policy. Polling from the Pew Research Center in November 2019 found that 76% of American adults, including a majority of respondents from both major political parties, believe that “the use of marijuana should be made legal.”
“Less than two years ago, we put out our blueprint outlining a path to cannabis legalization in the 116th Congress,” said Blumenauer. “Now, after many months of hard work and collaboration, we finally have a chance to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against people of color, especially Black men. As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice.”