'Historic' Cannabis Legalization Bill Opens This Month
US federal lawmakers are likely to pass a “landmark” cannabis legalization bill later this month, paving the way for major reform after the November election, according to a political expert.
Last week, a leaked email revealed that the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a sweeping bill called the MORE Act shortly after Congress resumes on September 14. The ongoing vote has since made international headlines and has sparked excitement in the cannabis community.
Le Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act would decriminalize cannabis by formally removing it from federal controlled substances law. This would allow federal states to pass their own laws on weed, which has been legalized by 11 state governments and by Washington DC
The bill would also remove federal weed-use convictions and create a fund for communities worst affected by the war on drugs.
“It's certainly historic,” said Chris Lindsey, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Getting the House to vote on what is in fact a legalization bill would certainly be a great moment in the timeline and history of this movement. "
Chris Lindsey said the MPP applauds the bill's key provisions, particularly how deregulating cannabis would finally address the historic harm that has been inflicted on people of color in America.
“The war on cannabis was really framed in a racist context and has been regularly used as a weapon against people of color,” he told Mugglehead in a phone interview.
The bill would impose a 5% tax on cannabis products, with the proceeds being transferred to a fund established to help those most affected by the enforcement of prohibition.
Lindsey predicts that the MORE law will pass the House, but face significant challenges in the Republican-led Senate due to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's opposition to legalization. But that shouldn't take away from the fact that this is a high point for an important bill on a topic that many people support, he adds.
Last year, polls from the Pew Research Center and Gallup showed that about two-thirds of Americans support legalizing weed, even a majority of Republicans support reform.
Last month, a coalition of major civil rights organizations sent a letter to Democratic Congressional leaders calling for a vote to end the ban, amid nationwide protests against the killings of black Americans by police.
In the face of the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic and a growing national dialogue on unfair law enforcement practices, marijuana reform, as a modest first step in the fight against drugs, is more relevant and more urgent than ever, ”the group wrote. “The MORE law remains the most effective and fairest way forward.
For Lindsey and the MPP, Americans won't see serious police and criminal justice reforms until federal prohibition ends.
“You can't deny it. If you just look at the arrest rates and nothing else, not to mention the many, many personal stories that have been told and that emerge and continue to emerge, how prohibition laws target colored minorities, ”a- he declared.
According to an American Civil Liberties Union report released earlier this year, blacks are 3,64 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than whites, despite similar rates of use. On average, 600000 Americans are arrested each year for weed-related offenses.
With or without, legalization extends
According to Lindsey, the MORE Act would protect Americans by lifting restrictions on cannabis research, and pave the way for health and safety regulations for legal products.
It would also pave the way for the passage in Congress of smaller but important cannabis bills, such as the States Act and the Bank Security Act, he said.
The SAFE Act would protect banks and allow them to serve cannabis-related businesses, without being sanctioned by federal regulators. Lindsey, who helped put in place provisions in Illinois for social equity claimants, says the bill would improve the chances of minorities to participate and succeed in the industry.
If state law became federal law, the government could no longer hinder states that have already legalized.
There are currently four states, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota, that approved recreational cannabis votes in the November election. Mississippi and Nebraska have approved votes on medical cannabis.
Legalizing cannabis is more important than ever, says Lindsey, as it is seen as a boon to states and cities that saw their tax revenues plummet during the pandemic.
For example, Colorado, which had record sales in 2020, has already raised more than $ XNUMX million in tax revenue this year alone.
Lindsey explains that the MPP's ultimate goal is to see federal legalization in the United States, but the organization's long-term strategy is to continue operating in the states and change local laws in order to put pressure on lawmakers. from Washington.
Chances of reform increase if the Senate passes
While the House vote on the MORE law generated significant buzz, Lindsey says the bill is unlikely to pass both houses of Congress unless the Senate goes blue this fall. Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, is the main sponsor of the Upper House version of the bill.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has openly opposed changing federal weed laws. Earlier this month, he also suggested that if Republicans wanted to win the election, they should avoid the ballots on legalizing cannabis.
But even if Democratic leader Joe Biden wins the White House, he adds, that won't necessarily improve the chances of the bill being passed.
In June, Joe Biden's campaign unveiled a far-reaching political document, which proposed rescheduling cannabis on a federal basis, legalizing medical weed federally, and leaving the states to decide on recreational use.
The recommendations were drafted by Mr Biden's "unity task forces", which his campaign established in April in partnership with former Democratic primary rival Senator Bernie Sanders.
A Biden administration would likely not support the MORE Act, according to Lindsey, meaning a Democratic-controlled House and Senate would need a super-majority with two-thirds of support to override a presidential veto.
And because party members are often reluctant to force their leader to do something they wouldn't want, it could create another stumbling block for the bill.
Lindsey thinks the bill is more likely to encourage at least serious engagement between parties on what a good system will look like. However, he is reluctant to give any predictions on when the weed will become legal in the United States.
“I wouldn't bet now - I think it's a bit early,” he said. “You don't want to count these chickens. "
The House will likely vote on MORE Act the week of September 21.