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Where Does Cannabis Legalization Stand on the Federal Level in the United States?

Where Does Cannabis Legalization Stand on the Federal Level in the United States?

November 06, 2020

The election is upon us in the United States! And as a result, politics is all anyone is talking about at the moment.

Of course, this makes sense considering how much influence the winning candidate in the Presidential election could have on the county.

Cannabis has also been a hotly debated political topic for decades now. And in more recent times, the tide has shifted from dogmatic demand for the continued criminalization of cannabis to the legalization of medical and recreation cannabis t the local and state level.

This shift has been so pervasive that nearly half the states in the Union have legalized either medical or recreational cannabis. And with each passing election cycle, yet another state seems to have ballot measures aimed at legalizing cannabis in their locale.

But the question for many, and very poignant inquiry considering all the politics on our collective brains currently, is…

Where Does Cannabis Legalization Stand on The Federal Level?

As it happens, a historic piece of legislation that would transform cannabis law in the United States is waiting for a vote in the House of representatives.

Known as the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) Act, the bill includes three key components that would revolutionize cannabis law in this country.

Details of the MORE Act

First and foremost, the bill removes cannabis from the Schedule I list of Controlled Substance. Schedule I of the controlled substances list defines “illegal drugs” in the eyes of the federal government and includes heroin, methamphetamine, mescaline, and peyote, among several other mind-altering substances.

If passed, states would be free to tax, regulate, and limit access to cannabis, similarly to how most states control alcohol, cigarettes, vapes, and other items tagged as “vice products.” Individual states and local municipalities could still ban the sale of cannabis. But possession (regardless of perceived “intent”) would no longer be illegal.

Secondly, the act would expunge the criminal records of those convicted of cannabis-related crimes.

Third, the act calls for a 5% federal sales tax to collect funds for use in social reform projects, including the establishment of an Office of Cannabis Justice within the US Justice Department. And this office would award grants for various financial aid and development projects to communities ravaged by the so-called “war on drugs.”

And finally, the act would end the denial of federal benefits, including housing subsidies, to those with a history of cannabis use or possession.

Where Does The MORE Act Currently Stand?

The legislation was first introduced in the summer of 2019 by House Majority Leader, Jerry Nadler and current Vice-Presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in the fall of 2019. And is now awaiting a full vote in the House of Representatives.

The bill has overwhelming support among House Democrats. And has garnered support from at least three Republican sponsors thus are.

A vote on the bill was scheduled for mid-September but has since been delayed. This stalled progress is likely due to the Presidential election. Democratic leaders don’t want this bill to distract from the general election. And supporters feel passage is more likely if Joe Biden wins the White House.

What Happens if the MORE Act Passes the House of Representatives?

Passing the House is just one of several hurdles for this legislation.

First, the Senate could simply vote down any consideration. And with the current Republic-held Senate, that’s a distinct possibility.

If the Democrats win control of the Senate in the upcoming general election, however, this is less of a concern.

Secondly, even if the bill makes it into consideration in the Senate, it could be revised. And potential changes may gut the bill or dull the impact of key provisions.

Thirdly, the Senate could simply vote down the legislation. Which is a real possibility if Republicans retain control of the Senate.

And finally, the President could veto the bill. This scenario is also a distinct possibility if Trump wins a second term, but the Republicans lose control of the Senate. And over-riding a Presidential veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.

In other words, the MORE Act is by NO MEANS a done deal!


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