House committee green lights bill to federally legalize cannabis, expunge criminal records – but Republicans might shoot it down
“The biggest marijuana news of the year”
On Wednesday November 20th, a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved a bill that would federally legalize marijuana. Leading many to believe that the American prohibition of cannabis is nearly, almost over for good.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), aka HR 3884 is a landmark bill that would not only make cannabis legal, removing it from the schedule I list of controlled substances, but it would also expunge the records of anyone who has been convicted of a marijuana-related offense, and it includes a 5-percent tax on marijuana products to provide job training and legal assistance for demographics hit hardest by the drug war.
It would effectively legitimize the cannabis industry, while also making partial reparations for all the injustice that federal prohibition has caused.
“The criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York., stated during the markup of the bill. “The racial disparity in marijuana enforcement laws only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”
The bill, introduced by Nadler, passed the democratically controlled House committee by a vote of 24-10. And it’s generated a lot of excitement. But some Republican members of the House think that the bill goes “too far,” and say that it won’t stand a chance when it gets to the Republican controlled senate, led by Mitch McConnell.
“The bill is nearly devoid of bipartisan support,” Republican Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, said. “Do we want to accomplish something, or simply provide a political statement?”
Ken Buck, a Republican representative from Colorado, agreed with that sentiment.
“We have failed for years to raise this issue in a responsible way,” Buck said. “The right bill would pass the House in a way that would demand Senate action. When it comes to a bill like this, [the Senate] would not address it.”
Which is to say, Republicans won’t consider this bill unless they get something out of it, too. Right now, it will benefit businesses in legal states, it will benefit The People, who, by majority want legalized pot, and it would benefit those Americans who have criminal marijuana charges haunting their records and limiting their opportunities.
But that’s not enough for Republicans. Or maybe it’s too much, it’s hard to tell what they want, because besides calling the MORE act “too much, too fast” no Republican representative has offered any constructive suggestions, requests, or comments about what they’d like to actually see out of this bill. Representatives like Collins and Buck, have simply shrugged and said, “No one’s gonna’ buy it.”
Still, despite the Republican disinterest in the MORE act, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws called this “the biggest marijuana news of the year.” And truly it’s a big step forward. This is the first time that a bill, proposing the full federal legalization of cannabis has made it through a committee in the House of Representatives. Which is news in its own right.
If the bill passes the full House, it’s just a matter of getting this bill to pass the Senate, which is going to be more difficult, undoubtedly. But this is not a bill that Democrats should waiver on — the current form of the MORE act is an ideal one: a bill that not only ends prohibition, but expunges criminal records as well and which appropriately taxes cannabis sales.
To negotiate those points would not lead to the kind of cannabis legalization this nation deserves. It would just result in a half-assed, half-baked form of legalization — which could be just bad as prohibition has been.