A House vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, expected next week, has been delayed, according to the lead sponsors of the bill.
The Act, H.R. 3884, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allow for the expungement of convictions related to past federal cannabis offenses. The Act also directs revenue from a 5% tax on cannabis products toward a fund that would provide support for those disproportionately affected by the drug war. Individual states could still decide to maintain cannabis prohibition.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, and Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, released a joint statement expressing disappointment.
“As Americans confront hundreds of years of systemic racial injustice, ending the failed war on drugs that has disproportionately hurt Black and Brown Americans must be front and center. As co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, our goal has always been a vote on federal marijuana legalization and restorative justice this Congress,” the co-chairs wrote.
“We have worked to build support for this historic legislation and expected a vote next week. Thankfully, the leadership has now given an ironclad commitment that the House will consider the bill this fall. The public deserves this vote and we will continue to build support to meet our objective of passing the MORE Act in the House and sending it to the Senate, which is one step closer to enacting it into law,” they continued.
Organizations focused on cannabis law reform echoed Blumenauer and Lee’s statements, pushing for the MORE Act in part because of its racial justice provisions.
“Unfortunately, this decision means justice delayed for millions of Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income individuals disproportionately impacted by our country’s racist marijuana laws. We cannot continue to force these communities to wait for a ‘politically convenient’ moment while they continue to be robbed of employment opportunities, housing, education, other government programs, and even their children or immigration status,” Maritza Perez, director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws sent out an email shortly after the news broke, beginning with, “It is with a heavy heart that we send this email. Despite an unprecedented level of support, it appears the prohibitionists and concern-mongers have carried the day.”
NORML continued, “As of right now, we have received a commitment that a vote will be held in November, but we know that this promise provides little solace at this moment.”
Kevin Sabet, the president of the national anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement, “While almost 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions more are desperate for aid due to the resulting economic fallout, the fact that marijuana legalization was even on anyone’s mind is inconceivable.”
Meanwhile, the National Safety Council, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and 20 other organizations sent a letter this week to Rep. Jerry Nadler and other House members, urging them to hold hearings on how the MORE Act could impact workplace safety.
“There are many occupations and work tasks where marijuana impairment poses significant risks to workers, their co-workers, customers, and the public,” they wrote, referencing concerts over safety-sensitive employees like truck and bus drivers, and forklift and crane operators.
“We urge that any steps toward legalization include a consideration of the impact on transportation and workplace safety and to ensure that there is an evidence-based standard for detecting marijuana-impairment in driving and other safety sensitive operations,” they wrote.