Comprehensive marijuana reform will be at the center of another congressional hearing next week, a key committee announced on Wednesday.
Two months after the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill sponsored by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the issue will be the subject of another discussion in an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee.
The topic will be taken up by the panel’s Subcommittee on Health on January 15.
“As public opinion continues to evolve and cannabis policies change at all levels of government, it’s important to bring federal agency officials together to discuss current and future federal cannabis policies,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) said in a joint statement. “We’re particularly interested in examining the implications of changing marijuana’s schedule listing, the potential of cannabis research, and federal efforts to review and approve cannabidiol products.”
NEWS: Health Subcommittee announces a legislative hearing on current and future federal cannabis policies.
— Energy and Commerce Committee (@EnergyCommerce) January 8, 2020
It’s not clear if the hearing, titled the “Cannabis Policies for the New Decade,” will focus on specific legislation such as the MORE Act. So far, the committee has not listed any witnesses who will testify at the meeting.
“The Energy and Commerce committee taking up marijuana reform is an unprecedented and welcome development,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “As the MORE Act continues to move through the process, the House is poised to become the first chamber of Congress in history to pass a bill to end prohibition.”
Nadler previously told Marijuana Moment that his office was “carrying on conversations” with other committees that his bill had been referred to, such as Energy and Commerce, to see if they’d waive jurisdiction in order to advance it more quickly to the full floor.
“I don’t anticipate that to be a big problem,” he said. “We are looking forward to moving this to the floor at an appropriate time when we’ve done some more educational work and have the votes.”
The Small Business Committee said this week that it’s agreed to yield on the bill.
Marijuana Moment has reached out to staffers on each of the panels, but while several responded, they said plans haven’t been finalized yet. A National Resources Committee communications official said he “wouldn’t put us down as a potential obstacle” on the legislation’s path to the floor.
The legislation has also been referred to Agriculture, Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform.
Nadler’s MORE Act has been a subject of intense interest for cannabis reform advocates, who view it as an ideal vehicle to end federal prohibition and repair the harms of the drug war, particularly for communities of color.
Beside descheduling marijuana, the bill would expunge the records of those with prior cannabis convictions and impose a five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in those disproportionately impacted communities.
It would also create a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated over marijuana offenses, and it would provide protections ensuring that immigrants couldn’t be denied citizenship over cannabis. Additionally, the legislation would prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to marijuana use.
It’s not clear if and when Energy and Commerce plans to hold a possible markup to vote on the legislation following Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing but, given the number of other panels that could also choose to take it up and the pressure from advocates to advance the legislation this Congress, it seems likely that such action will be scheduled in a timely fashion.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.