Bill to Decriminalize Cannabis on Federal Level Gets Bipartisan Support

December 4, 2020 by Dan McCue
Marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

WASHINGTON – The House passed legislation that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level — the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on such a measure.

And significantly, the measure received bipartisan support.

When the figurative smoke cleared, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement Act, was approved by a 228-164 vote, with five Republicans voting for it, and six Democrats voting against it.

After the vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the bill’s passage was an important step toward addressing systemic racism and reforming the criminal justice system.

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been upended as a result of convictions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and the racial disparities in conviction rates for those offenses are as shocking as they are unjust,” Hoyer said.

“As a result of those convictions, many now have difficulty finding jobs or obtaining loans, effectively excluding them from economic opportunity, which, in the context of the severe racial disparities of those convictions, represents a modern-day form of segregation,” he continued.

“That’s why we passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today,” he said noting the bill would decriminalize cannabis possession and create a process to expunge the records of those convicted of non-violent possession in the past.

A recent Gallup poll found 68% of Americans support legalization of cannabis on the federal level, and big ballot wins in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota in November opened the door to legal adult use in those states.

Erich Mauff, president and founder of Jushi Holdings, a vertically integrated, multi-state cannabis operator said these developments are the herald of “a new era in the cannabis industry.

“Cannabis legalization will result in billions of dollars in infrastructure investment, create thousands of service level jobs, and add billions of dollars in tax revenues,” he said, predicting the MORE Act “will generate and encourage unprecedented economic stimulus for an America that wants to move past the unconstitutional injustices of its past.

“Cohesive and meaningful federal oversight is a critical next step for this country, as we work with vigor and passion to reimagine an industry that cultivates equitable opportunities while embracing diversity and inclusion across every platform,” Mauff said.

Kyle Kazan, co-founder, chairman and CEO of the Glass House Group, operator of the largest cannabis greenhouse operation in the world, said the passage of the MORE Act “will open up the cannabis industry in a big way, resulting in a huge boom in the American investment market.

“While it still needs to pass the Senate, it is a great first step toward cannabis decriminalization,” he said.

The bill now faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, but some wish it went even further than it does today.

“The MORE Act is a long overdue step toward addressing our nation’s draconian federal marijuana laws,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“While we applaud the House for passing a bill that will help most communities immediately, this measure falls short of the comprehensive racial justice solution that we advocated for to help all communities of color demanding justice. We urge both chambers to work with us to include needed provisions in the legislation and achieve an equitable way forward,” he said.

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