The battle for legalized marijuana is entering a new level with a key congressional committee set to vote on a bill to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana. The vote, according to two sources close to the action, is apparently set for next week.
The legislation – which is being sponsored by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler – would legalize cannabis by taking it out of the Controlled Substance Act. It would also put aside funding to repair the damage of the war on drugs.
More Than Just Legalization
These programs include legal aid for people affected by prohibition, job training, and loans for cannabis businesses owned and operated by disadvantaged people, among other things. The programs will be funded through a new 5% tax on marijuana sales instituted with the bill. A newly formed Cannabis Justice Office would also administrate some of these programs for the Department of Justice.
The proposal – dubbed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, also has provisions for resentencing people convicted of cannabis offenses and provisions to expunge the convictions from their records. It would also mean that people aren’t denied citizenship over marijuana use.
The bill currently has 55 sponsors, 54 of whom are Democrats.
The proposed bill – which has yet to be officially listed but could be announced on Monday – is coming around two months after the House voted for a bipartisan bill to allow marijuana businesses better access to banks.
Politico reported that Democrat Representative Barbara Lee – who isn’t a member of the panel – made vague mentions of the committee making these considerations while speaking during a conference. She didn’t clarify that any such legislation would be voted on or even “marked up.”
The bill would also prevent federal agencies from denying security clearances and public benefits to people over their marijuana usage. It comes after the Judiciary Committee held a hearing in July that looked at the connection between marijuana legalization and racial justice.
The markup affords lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum to file their own amendments to the bill. It could also potentially shed more light on the emerging divide between those who support cannabis legislation as a way to address equity and damages over cannabis right now, and those who feel it would be better to advance limited legislation on the state level. Such limited legislation could have an easier time making it through the Senate.
Will it Pass or Stall?
The tensions between the two sides emerged during the summer Judiciary hearings and in the run-up to the House voting on the cannabis banking legislation. Some pro-legislation groups even asked leadership to delay the vote on the financial services bill as they felt it was wrong to issue an industry-focused proposal ahead of one that tackled judiciary provisions such as the upcoming MORE Act.
These concerns were answered by top Democrats, including Steny Hoyer, who pledged that they understood the importance of improving cannabis legalization while also voting for the banking changes.
This upcoming vote for the MORE Act shows that the House does indeed plan on following through with this pledge for better racial justice and cannabis legislation.