The House Judiciary Committee will vote on Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) federal Cannabis legalization bill on Wednesday, September 29. The measure passed the full House last Congress but did not advance in the Senate. That’s because Republican Mitch McConnell, who at the time was Senate majority leader, deep-sixed the bill.
Advocates are hoping this time will be different. They could get their wishes, because with the Democrats in control, pro-weed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gets to set the agenda. Schumer has promised to push the bill in the Senate.
The House passed a defense spending bill that includes an amendment that would protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses. This would do away with penalties from federal regulators for banks servicing Cannabis businesses.
MORE Act House Judiciary Committee Vote Coming Wednesday
Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler’s Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act will receive a markup Wednesday, reports Marijuana Moment. The panel will consider a dozen pieces of legislation during the meeting. One of them is Nadler’s bill.
Nadler’s cannabis legislation passed the House last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control. This time around, advocates are optimistic. Democrats run both chambers and the White House, and more states are moving to enact legalization.
The legislation would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), allow people with cannabis convictions to have their records expunged and create a federal tax on marijuana with the revenue going to support community reinvestment and other programs.
It also creates a pathway for resentencing for those incarcerated for Cannabis offenses, protects immigrants from being denied citizenship over marijuana and prevents federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.
“We are excited to see Chairman Nadler and House leadership move forward once again with passing the MORE Act,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, said. “Public support and state-policy demand for repealing federal marijuana criminalization has never been higher and Congressional action on this legislation is long overdue. The days of federal marijuana prohibition are numbered.”
Banking First, Or Comprehensive Federal Legalization?
There’s been some controversy between activists and stakeholders on which reform should come first. Bipartisan banking legislation has cleared the House in some form five times now. Some say it should come first. Others want to go ahead and pass the comprehensive legalization bill that passed the House for the first time late last year.
Legalization advocates do want to see the bill from Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) enacted. There are, after all, public safety problems caused by all-cash businesses. Perlmutter’s legislation would take an important step toward normalizing the growing marijuana industry. But social equity-minded activists argue that advancing the incremental reform first would mainly benefit large marijuana businesses, without addressing the harms of cannabis criminalization.
The fate of the banking proposal will likely be decided in conference with the Senate. The Senate hasn’t included the policy change in its National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Key lawmakers including Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) insist they’ll push for legalization before allowing the incremental change to be enacted.
Schumer, Wyden, Booker Lead Charge In Senate
Separately, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Booker are also leading the charge on a legalization bill in their chamber. But it’s been weeks since a public comment period on a draft version of the proposal closed.
Finalized text hasn’t been formally filed. And it’s far from certain that Schumer will be able to find enough votes to advance legalization through his chamber.
President Joe Biden remains opposed to adult-use Cannabis legalization. Biden supports more modest reforms such as decriminalizing cannabis, expunging prior records and letting states set their own marijuana policies. It’s not a sure thing President Biden would sign a broad bill like the MORE Act or the Senate legalization bill should either reach his desk.
Advocates Encouraged By New Revisions To MORE Act
The latest version of MORE fortunately doesn’t have a bad provision added just before last year’s House floor vote. That language would have prevented people with previous marijuana convictions from obtaining federal permits to operate Cannabis businesses. That was a controversial change that appeared at the last minute and which advocates strongly opposed.
The prior version of the legislation also contained provisions to help economically disadvantaged people enter the legal marijuana market. The language now extends aid—such as loans, financial literacy programs and job training—to help anyone harmed by the War On Drugs pursue business opportunities in any industry, not just marijuana.
Activists like the new revisions, but there are still additional components they hope to see changed as it goes through the legislative process. For instance, advocates took issue with provisions added to the MORE Act prior to last year’s vote. That language allows cannabis to still be included in drug testing programs for federal workers.
The current version of the MORE Act has 66 cosponsors, all Democrats. Seven lawmakers signed on just this week.