In a historic first, the House Judiciary Committee approved 24-10, largely along partisan lines, to send a federal marijuana legalization bill to the US House of Representatives for a full vote.
The bill, named the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, was written by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and is co-sponsored by Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren. The bill completely removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, the federal law that places weed in the most restrictive category for illegal drugs. Additionally, it would expunge criminal records nationwide for non-violent weed offenses, and it would create a program to dispense business loans to cannabis entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods most impacted by the War on Drugs.
After noting that legalizing weed nationwide would generate billions of dollars in tax revenue for the US government, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) blasted Republicans for doing nothing about marijuana reform while the GOP dominated the US House during the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“The time for inaction is over,” Raskin said during the committee debate. “The time for excuses is over.”
Rep. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican and one of the staunchest pro-weed members of the GOP, partially agreed with Raskin’s criticism of his party. However, he argued that the Judiciary Committee’s approval for the MORE Act should be delayed so the committee could conduct additional hearings before putting the bill to a floor vote.
“I do agree we need more hearings,” Gardner retorted. Citing a spike in emergency room visits from weed-infused edibles in the Centennial State, as well as (debunked) concerns regarding rising teen use of marijuana, he added, “It’s worth a debate.”
Without additional hearings to further amend the MORE Act, Gardner warned that Republicans may not support the bill. And while the Democrats may control the US House — where the MORE Act has a high probability of passing — the Republicans currently control the US Senate, which will serve as the MORE Act’s second stop if it clears through the House.
“The nice thing about the Senate, is that they’ll do nothing,” Gardner predicted. “Very efficient, but they’ll do nothing.”
Wednesday’s committee vote is just the first step toward the MORE Act becoming federal law. The House Judiciary Committee has two days to modify any approved amendments, then the bill will go to the US House for a vote. If it passes there, it gets debated and voted on in the Senate. If the Senate approves the MORE Act, it goes to President Trump’s desk for his signature — or veto.
“This is a truly historic moment in our nation’s political history. For the first time, a Congressional committee has approved far-reaching legislation to not just put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, but to address the countless harms our prohibitionist policies have wrought, notable on communities of color and other already marginalized groups,” said NORML’s Executive Director, Erik Altieri, in a statement. “Opposition to our failed war on marijuana has reached a boiling point with over two-thirds of all Americans, including majorities of all political persuasions, now supporting legalization. Congress should respect the will of the people and promptly approve the MORE Act and close this dark chapter of failed public policy.”
Although President Trump has not seriously addressed marijuana reform during his term, and may have even been secretly working against legalization, he has publicly stated he would sign a marijuana reform bill if the US Congress approves it.
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