We Need MORE, and We Need It Now
By: Julia Gilbert
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (The MORE Act) has been postponed in the House. This is disappointing to say the least. If passed, the MORE Act would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Additionally, it would, among other things, establish a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.
Various reasons have been given for this issue getting postponed. One reason provided is that centrist democrats are concerned about taking a vote on marijuana legalization before passing certain coronavirus legislation. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, has called it a fear-based response to the republican party. Some claim that the postponement is due to fear of not being deferential enough to law enforcement lobbyists and other prohibition special interests.
Ultimately, though, the reason doesn’t matter. There are individuals in PRISON for their marijuana related activities who may have a road to release if this Act passes. Instead, they continue to be deprived of their liberty day after day, year after year, for using, growing, selling, a flower that has significant medical benefit and that is supported by more than half of the United States population. Other individuals are negatively impacted day in and day out by having a federal conviction on their record, despite that conviction being only for a marijuana-related offense.
Democratic leaders claim they are committed to scheduling a vote on the bill before the end of the year, but who is to say it won’t get postponed again? Now is the time for this to move forward. Dealing with the pandemic must no doubt happen, but dealing with one public health crisis doesn’t mean that another public crisis can’t be dealt with at the same time. The “war on drugs,” which has resulted in packed prisons and sanctioned robbery by the government (civil asset forfeiture) is a public crisis. For those affected, the need for action is urgent.
Of course, if The More Act ever passes the House, it still has to pass the Senate. NORML has explained 4 reasons why the vote going forward is so important even if it will fail the first time around in the Senate. 1) It will be the first time since the CSA passed that a Congressional chamber has voted to remove marijuana from Schedule I, making it an historic vote. 2) The stance of each Representative regarding this issue will be on record so that Americans, and most importantly their constituents, know where they stand. 3) It will provide reformers with more ammunition to encourage the Biden campaign to change its stance from supporting REscheduling marijuana to supporting DEscheduling marijuana. 4) Finally, it will “set the stage for a potential, and necessary, Senate battle in 2021. If Democrats gain majority control of the Senate in November, our most significant hurdle – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – will no longer be able to single-handedly stonewall legislative progress.”
Bottom line: the Democrats have a House majority and they shouldn’t be twiddling their thumbs on this important issue. A majority of Americans support legalization, 33 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana, and several states allow recreational marijuana or have decriminalized marijuana. NOW is the time to contact your Representative and tell them to quit stalling on such an important issue.