For over a decade, House Dems have made another run at legalization. When Democrats came to power in 2009, they even tried to push through a bill that would have made it legal to possess, sell, and use marijuana in any state. But Republicans, who were in charge at the time, wouldn’t go along.

The House of Representatives has begun a new session of Congress, and they’re looking to pass the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018 . As we can all agree, America needs to end the war on cannabis, and legalize all marijuana products for medicinal and adult use. However, in the past, the Democrats have been forced to give up on passing cannabis reform legislation, and have had to wait until each session of Congress began. However, this year the Democrats have begun to make headway in finally passing a bill to decriminalize cannabis.

House Dems make another run at legalization Democratic US Congressman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act on May 28 after the GOP blocked its passage last year. The MORE Act, already passed once by the full House before falling victim to Republican obstruction in the Senate. If enacted, the measure would end the federal prohibition of cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act drug schedules and end criminal penalties under federal law. This bill is backed by 155 organizations who support moving the MORE Act swiftly to the House floor this summer. Among other things, cannabis’ removal from the CSA would trigger automatic changes in California’s state marijuana legalization laws. “[Once the] nonmedical use of marijuana is lawful in the State of California under federal law, … an act taken by a city, county, or city and county [that bans outdoor cultivation] shall be deemed repealed upon the date of such determination by the California Attorney General.” — California HSC 11362.2.(b)(4)

Legalize, regulate, clear records and MORE

In addition to federally decriminalizing and descheduling cannabis, the MORE Act would:

  • require federal courts to expunge prior cannabis-related convictions and provide for resentencing;
  • provide grants and funding to communities most harmed by the war on cannabis;
  • lift barriers to licensing and employment in the cannabis industry;
  • block federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to cannabis use;
  • protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis; and
  • allow VA physicians to recommend medical cannabis to veterans.

The bill passed the House of Representatives last year, but it did not advance in the Senate when then-Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell refused to grant the measure a hearing. Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project, commented that, “Americans overwhelmingly support ending cannabis prohibition. Reintroducing the MORE Act is a powerful way to reorient negotiations around legalization that gives our entire nation the power to choose cannabis for medical and adult use, strengthens a blossoming industry that is creating jobs and fueling economic growth, and begins to rectify the harms of the racially motivated war on cannabis and its disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities through criminal justice reform and social equity initiatives. We endorse this bill and urge Congress to pass it.”

Nation favors ending prohibition

At least three more states have legalized cannabis since this chart was made in 2019. House Dems make another run at legalization According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans support cannabis legalization. To date, 18 states have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over. Notably, more than 43 percent of Americans now live in a jurisdiction with legal cannabis. “It is clear, by the overwhelming extent to which it passed the MORE Act last session, that the House understands this for the urgent racial and social justice issue it is,” said Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Our communities that have borne the brunt of marijuana prohibition have waited long enough for justice. We urge House leadership to move swiftly to bring the bill back to the floor this session, so that we can continue the momentum and move a marijuana justice bill in the Senate as well.” “Cannabis prohibition and its ensuing over-policing, unequal enforcement, and criminalization stripped millions of Black and Latinx people of their vote, access to education, employment, and housing, creating cycles of poverty and marginalization in their communities,” agreed Tahir Johnson, director of social equity and inclusion at the Marijuana Policy Project. “The MORE Act promises to address many of the harms caused by prohibition using an equity and justice-centered framework that allows the communities most harmed to access the health and economic benefits of the cannabis industry. This is the approach to legalization that our country needs.” About MPP: The Marijuana Policy Project is the nation’s leading cannabis policy organization. It has been advocating for federal cannabis reform since its founding in 1995, and has played a leading role in the majority of state-level cannabis victories over the past two decades. For more information, visit https://www.mpp.org.

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