Federal Marijuana Legalization – The Historic Congressional Vote This Week

As recently as on election day, two conservative states made history with their cannabis legalization measures. That means more than a third of the American population lives in the states where adult-use cannabis is legal.

A poll by Fresh Gallup says that about 68% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis. Now more than any point in the past couple of decades, the country is more likely to support cannabis legalization. Although statistically, 68% this year is not that different from the 66% seen in the last year. This change in the political climate in the country may mean happy news for cannabis enthusiasts.

On Thanksgiving weekend, Steny Hoyer, Democratic House Majority Leader announced that the floor vote for MORE Act. This means the end of prohibition of cannabis federally is scheduled for this week.

MORE Act

It is one of the most comprehensive cannabis law bills ever introduced in Congress. It was introduced in July last year by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. The bill seeks to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act thereby decriminalizing it federally.

Not just that, it will also require federal courts to expunge previous convicts associated with cannabis. Also, allow the offenders to request for expunction of their criminal records.

In a press statement last year, Harris said, “We need to start regulating marijuana and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives…….As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone—especially communities of color. As they have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs—has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”

This measure was widely hailed by cannabis advocacy groups. Neal Levine, director of the Cannabis Trade Federation in a statement said, “A strong and steadily growing majority of Americans believe it is time to end our nation’s failed experiment with cannabis prohibition…..There are thousands of state-regulated cannabis businesses operating around the country, employing hundreds of thousands of workers and generating billions of dollars in tax revenue. They deserve fair treatment under the law, and that is one of the goals this legislation seeks to achieve.”

Kamala Harris’ Stance on Cannabis Legalization

Not so long ago, Vice-President Harris opposed cannabis legalization. As San Francisco District Attorney, she was pretty vocal about her opposition towards the legalization. Although, over the years her position has clearly evolved. This change in stance also was criticized by people as they believed this shift was purely on political grounds.

What to Expect in This Historic Vote

The House vote to end federal prohibition of cannabis can happen as early as Wednesday. Advocates expect it to pass but it is expected to get stalled in the Senate. Usually, the House leaders do not bring a bill to the floor unless they believe that they have the votes in support. This historic vote for the MORE Act could possibly be the first time that the Senate or the House vote as a full chamber to end federal prohibition since the law came into effect with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

It might only be a small victory for cannabis advocates as it is quite an uphill task after the House vote this week. If they are successful with the House vote, it is still only half of the battle.

Now, this might be disappointing for cannabis supporters but the US Senate remains in the hands of the Republicans even after the exit of Trump from the White House. Their leader Senator Mitch McConnell has been a vocal opponent of cannabis legalization for a long time. In the past, he has also once declared that cannabis will never be legalized in his watch.

In a statement, Justin Strekal, Norml’s Political Director said that the MORE Act sends a clear signal that the people of America are ready to accept cannabis and end the senseless fear and oppression towards it.

Voting Was Earlier Re-Scheduled

MORE Act vote was supposed to go on the floor in September but it was postponed due to the election concerns. Two months ago, democrats facing the challenge of re-election showed concern over the voting as they believed it would affect the undecided and moderate voter’s opinion. They pressured the House to delay it until after the elections on 3rd November. In fact, the cannabis legalization proved to be more popular than the candidates, regardless of the party they represented.

Given recent trends and the high level of public support, change is coming. And so we can hope.

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