The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on a bill to federally legalize marijuana for the second time in history next week, congressional leadership confirmed on Thursday.
The body will take up the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). An earlier version of the measure cleared the chamber last session but later stalled in what was then the Republican-controlled Senate.
The legislation, which would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and promote social equity in the industry, cleared the Judiciary Committee again this session, and activists have been pushing for a floor vote this month.
Rumors of potential floor action next week began circulating on Wednesday, with sources telling Marijuana Moment that while nothing had been confirmed yet, the official vote scheduling appeared imminent based on high-level discussions they were familiar with.
Now, House leaders have officially placed the cannabis legislation on a list of bills they plan to take up on the House floor next week. The Rules Committee will officially take up the measure in a meeting on Monday afternoon to prepare it for floor action, including by determining which amendments will be allowed to advance for consideration.
The last time the MORE Act went to the floor in December 2020, it passed in a 228-164 vote, with just five Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues in advancing the reform. One of those five GOP members, Rep. Don Young (R-AK), died last week. He was one of bipartisan co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
The move to hold another vote on the cannabis legalization bill comes weeks after congressional Democrats held a closed-to-press session at a party retreat that included a panel that largely centered on the reform legislation.
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Justin Strekal, founder of the pro-legalization political action committee BOWL PAC, told Marijuana Moment that the upcoming floor action will help voters understand where their lawmakers stand on cannabis reform heading up to this November’s midterm elections.
“For the first time in history, Americans will be able to go to polls knowing whether or not their representative voted to end prohibition or maintain the racist and senseless policy of marijuana criminalization,” he said, referring to the fact that the first House vote on the MORE Act happened shortly after the most recent federal election in 2020. “Now is the time for lawmakers to ask themselves the question: Do I want to vote against the will of the supermajority of American voters?”
Maritza Perez, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs, said the bill is a chance to move past decades of racially disparate enforcement of cannabis criminalization laws.
“For over half a century, marijuana prohibition has stood as the cornerstone of the cruel and inhumane drug war that has robbed millions of people of their freedom and their livelihoods. The weight of which has disproportionately fallen on the backs of Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income communities—who remain its number one target,” she said. “They’ve been denied jobs, housing, educational opportunities and far more. They’ve had their families torn apart. Others have lost their immigration status. And our communities have suffered gravely as a result.”
Passing the legislation will help “ensure our communities are not put on the backburner and made to wait a moment more for long-overdue justice,” she said.
In addition to descheduling marijuana, the MORE Act would further allow people with past convictions to have their records expunged and create a federal tax on cannabis with the revenue going to support community reinvestment and other programs.
It also contains language to create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for cannabis offenses, protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over marijuana and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.
Meanwhile, advocates and stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the formal introduction of a separate Senate legalization bill that’s being finalized by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) etc. Schumer recently said the plan is to file that bill—the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA)—in April.
Also in Congress, a separate bill to tax and regulate marijuana is also in play this session. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is sponsoring that legislation, and she said in a recent interview that she’s received assurances from Democratic leaders that her States Reform Act will receive a hearing.
Image element courtesy of Tim Evanson.