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House Delays Marijuana Legalization Vote Until After Election

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A bill which would legalize marijuana federally and remove it from the Controlled Substances Act, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act or MORE Act, was planned to be voted on in the House of Representatives in the next week, but it is instead being held until after the Nov. 3 election. It was not placed on the floor schedule for the week of September 21 as was expected and previously scheduled.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement on Thursday that the House is focused instead on addressing bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Right now, the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hoyer said. 

“The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform, and we are committed to bringing it to the Floor for a vote before the end of the year,” he added.

The House Democrats received some criticism in late August for discussing this bill before addressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have been a factor in the delay. Politico congressional reporter Sarah Ferris wrote, “many moderates were furious that the House would vote on weed before taking up a COVID bill, though other Dems called it a social justice imperative.”

According to an article by Marijuana Business Daily, the MORE Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in November 2019. It includes a 5 percent tax on marijuana products, which would be directed to help communities impacted by drug use. It also addresses the expungement of federal cannabis convictions. The bill has, as of Thursday, 111 co-sponsors in the House including one Republican. It has not yet been addressed by the Senate, but Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) sponsored a Senate version of the bill. 

Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, told Marijuana Moment, “(t)his delay does not change the fact that 33 states and the District of Columbia regulate the production and distribution of medical cannabis in a manner that is inconsistent with federal policy, and that one-out-of-four Americans now reside in jurisdictions where adult-use is legal under state law.”

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