Thursday, September 30, 2021
House Judiciary Committee, by vote of 26-15, approves MORE Act to deschedule marijuana and thereby end federal prohibition
After what reportedly was quite an intriguing discussion, this afternoon the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, H.R. 3617, with 26 votes in favor (24 Democrats, 2 Republicans) and 15 votes (all Republicans) against. The MORE Act, as noted in this post from DEC 2020, received a full favorable vote from the House. But at that time, everyone knew there would be no time and likely little interest in Senate action before the Congress term ended. Now there is ample time for the Senate to pass MORE or another like bill, though I think there is considerable uncertainty about there being enough votes for reform.
In case you forgot, in addition to removing marijuana from the prohibitions created by the Controlled Substances Act, the MORE Act would expunge non-violent federal marijuana convictions and support state efforts to do the same, while also providing provide resources and support for minority owned marijuana businesses and creating other reinvestment programs for communities that have been adversely impacted by marijuana prohibitions. Here is a bit more from this Marijuana Moment piece:
Although most Republicans who spoke argued against the bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is a cosponsor of it, made the case for reform.
“I am a proud co-sponsor of the MORE Act because the federal government has screwed up marijuana policy in this country for a generation,” he said. “We lied to people about the effects of marijuana. And then we used marijuana as a cudgel to incarcerate just wide swaths of communities, and particularly in African-American communities.”
“We cannot honestly say that the war on drugs impacted suburban white communities in the same way it affected urban black communities. We can’t say that marijuana enforcement was happening the same way on the corner than it was happening in the fraternity house,” he said. “We have an opportunity to fix that problem. The war on drugs, much like many of our forever wars, has been a failure. If there’s been a war on drugs, drugs have won that war.”
However, he expressed certain concerns about provisions of the legislation such as the proposed federal excise tax on cannabis sales. While Gaetz also said that while he supports the MORE Act, he doesn’t feel it stands a chance in the Senate and recommended advancing more modest reform.
While the legislation has largely stayed intact compared to the prior version that passed the chamber last year in a historic vote, there were some modest revisions that were incorporated upon its reintroduction in May.
The panel on Thursday considered additional changes before moving the measure forward, although much of the time was spent debating unrelated issues such as COVID-19 vaccines, abortion policy and protests against police violence.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) sought to remove the bill’s tax provisions as well as grant funds it would create to help repair the harms of the war on drugs.