A comprehensive marijuana reform bill that would repeal federal cannabis prohibition passed the US House’s judiciary committee on Thursday. The final tally was 26 to 15 votes, with only two Republicans breaking party lines to vote in favor of the bill. The MORE Act was passed by the House last December by 228 to 164 votes, but failed to make progress in the Senate.
It seems unlikely that the MORE Act will go further this year. Even if the House approves it for a second year in a row, the bill may not get the votes in the Senate — there are too many battling cannabis legalization schemes at the moment.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is the sponsor of the Cannabis Opportunity and Administration Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and, like the MORE Act, give the states room to decide for themselves on cannabis legalization. The two bills have key differences, including tax structure. But, the MORE Act would levy drastically lower federal taxes on cannabis: Five percent compared to 10 percent for Schumer’s bill.
The House has seen several dueling cannabis plans this year. Two Republican members of Congress introduced cannabis legislation that does not include any social justice programs. That bill has not advanced. (Thank the weed gods)
Thursday’s judiciary committee debate was all over the place. The conversation veered into larger societal issues, rather than sticking to the nuts and bolts of the MORE Act. The meeting included soundbites on COVID-19 vaccines, the makeup of Black families, protests against police violence, and abortion. According to POLITICO’s cannabis journalist Natalie Fertig via Twitter, Rep. Jerry Nadler, the bill’s sponsor, exclaimed, “What does ANY of this have to do with the MORE Act?”
“This discussion has lived so many lives by now, I should be writing a book on this markup, not an article,” Fertig tweeted.
The House has made progress on other areas of cannabis reform, recently. Last week, the legislative chamber voted for a defense budget bill that included the SAFE Banking Act as an amendment, which would allow banks to legally do business with the cannabis industry and shield them from federal prosecution.
In a press statement, NORML’s political director Justin Strekal stated: “The continued criminalization of marijuana by the federal government is an affront to our professed ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. By advancing the MORE Act, the House will demonstrate that the majority of our political leaders are ready to correct this injustice and enact cannabis policy reform that undoes the harms that have been inflicted upon millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”
Back in May, Strekal had words of caution on Twitter regarding the passage of the MORE Act as an end goal rather than a step on the road to justice regarding cannabis-related issues. “There are other aspects of federal policy as it pertains to cannabis that will need to be addressed in the future,” he posted. “No cause is solved w/ a single bill.”