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The Democratic leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled a vote on legislation to end the federal prohibition of cannabis for next week, according to an announcement from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. A vote on the bill, known as the MORE Act, should come between Wednesday, December 2, and Friday, December 4, according to an update to the House floor schedule posted online by Hoyer’s office on Friday.
If passed, the MORE Act would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and allow the states to set their own cannabis regulation policies. The bill would also expunge convictions for many federal marijuana-related offenses and levy a 5% commercial cannabis tax which would be invested in communities that have been harmed by the failed War on Drugs. Additionally, the measure would allow physicians with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to write recommendations for medical cannabis in states that have legalized medical marijuana and would make cannabis businesses eligible for grants from the Small Administration.
September Vote Delayed
The MORE Act was passed by the House Judiciary Committee in November 2019 and regained attention and increased bipartisan support this summer after civil unrest refocused attention on the social equity aspects of cannabis legalization efforts. A vote on the bill by the full House that was scheduled for September was delayed following criticism that lawmakers should concentrate on passing further coronavirus relief legislation instead.
“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,” Hoyer said in a statement at the time. “Later this autumn, the House will pass the MORE Act with strong support as yet another crucial step toward making our justice system fair for all Americans.”
“The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform,” Hoyer added.
With the MORE Act now back on the House floor schedule, Justin Strekal, the political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said on Monday the vote will mark an important milestone in cannabis legalization history.
“This floor vote represents the first Congressional roll call ever on the question of ending federal marijuana criminalization,” Strekal said in a press release. “By advancing the MORE Act, the House of Representatives sends an unmistakable signal that America is ready to close the book marijuana prohibition and end the senseless oppression and fear that this failed policy wreaks on otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
“Americans are ready to responsibly legalize and regulate marijuana, and this vote shows some lawmakers are finally listening,” he added.
However, passage of the MORE Act by the House would largely be a symbolic measure, as the bill would likely not be considered by the Senate prior to the end of the legislative session later in December. Eventual success of the legislation during the incoming Biden administration could hinge on the outcome of the Georgia runoff elections for U.S. senator scheduled for January, which could shift power in the Senate to the Democrats.