A top leader in the U.S. House of Representatives revealed that the chamber will hold a vote on federal marijuana legalization this December, just days after Joe Biden was announced president-elect of the country.
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After an anxiety-packed few days after Election Day, where not only did the nation elect a new president, but several states passed laws that made marijuana legal in one way or another.
Following this precedent, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), confirmed last Monday that federal legalization of marijuana was still on the table before the presidential transition and will get a vote in December.
The House was supposed to vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, but it was postponed to allegedly focus on coronavirus relief packages for citizens, before advancing cannabis legislation.
The Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is the lead sponsor of the MORE Act. As part of its legislature, the act would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge previous records for people with marijuana convictions and impose a federal five percent tax on sales.
Tax revenue would be reinvested in supporting communities most affected by the War on Drugs.
Besides, it would also push forward the resentencing of people convicted for marijuana offenses, protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances for use of pot.
The comprehensive marijuana legalization bill is still in the conversation for the current Congress. If approved, this could also push the new president-elect to embrace legalization.
Advocates are hoping Biden will follow through with his campaign promise to seek more modest marijuana reform starting 2021 – he has embraced decriminalization of pot recently and believes “no one should go to jail for marijuana”, but has not openly sided towards federal marijuana legalization.
Biden is known to have declined full-on marijuana legalization, even being a Democrat.
Since Congress is mostly controlled by Democrats, it’s likely the MORE Act will pass. Sadly though, the actual legalization of marijuana federally is still in the hands of the Senate, where the view is less optimistic.
This would be the first ever vote to end federal marijuana prohibition.
However, not all is lost as Biden’s election for the presidency could still change the face of cannabis in the U.S. Even just the symbolic vote could show support for legalization to the new administration.
Since the president has all the authority to grant pardons and commutations to people who’ve been convicted of federal marijuana or drug offenses, that’s one way in which the executive could pivot on marijuana advances without relying on the Senate.
Biden is also famous for his bromance with former President Obama. It is believed that a similar memo from the Justice Department during Biden’s time as the former vice president could come into play. It would direct federal prosecutors to not interfere with state marijuana laws.
Biden’s running mate, VP-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA), was previously more modest when it came to cannabis legislation. She’s now the lead Senate sponsor of the MORE Act.
The More Act’s main focus is preventing Americans from getting jobs, applying for credit card loans, and accessing opportunities that make it possible to get ahead in our economy”, said Hoyer in a Dear Colleague letter to fellow House members this week.
Nation-wide support for cannabis has expanded to 68% in the past year, as reported Gallup News. Most voters leaning towards the legalization of marijuana identify as Democrats, but the record shows people to be in favor, regardless of political party-lines.