Weed legalization bill passed in House of Representatives

The House of Representatives just passed the MORE bill, the first law to legalize cannabis to make it into Congress. The law was passed on Friday, December 4th, by 228 votes to 164. The vote was largely split across party lines, with all but six Democrats voting for the bill and all but five Republicans voting against.

The MORE bill would decimalize marijuana at the federal level and begin giving back to the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs. When the Democrats took the house in 2018, cannabis advocates knew that there was still much to be done and that there was limited time to do it. Every few years, more states are legalizing cannabis, whether for medicinal or recreational use. That number rose again after the November elections, making federal decriminalization inevitable. With the first Democratic majority since 2011, home and cannabis justice attorneys saw their best chance of aligning federal law with state law. The result was the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

This landmark bill marks the first time any Chamber of Congress has voted on a law to legalize cannabis, but the law goes way beyond decriminalization. The bill includes several social and judicial measures that would help the communities that bear the brunt of the war on drugs while creating an equitable industry where those hardest hit by the ban have a seat at the table.

This law has been a long time coming since public opinion shifted towards legalized cannabis in the early states. In a 2019 study by the Per Research Center, 67% of those surveyed were in favor of legalization. The conservative Congress has been slow to adjust its views on this, and cannabis is still considered a Schedule I narcotic at the federal level. This has made it difficult for the cannabis industry to access financial services normally available to other small businesses, even in places where cannabis is legal at the state level. The result restricted the industry and meant that these new companies such as pharmacies, head shops or weed growers had to have the start-up capital in advance. The result is that these businesses are disproportionately owned and operated by wealthy whites. If the MORE law can be incorporated into the law, that would change and create a level playing field for cannabis entrepreneurs.

The MORE bill that passes the House of Representatives is just a hurdle, it has yet to come through the Republican-controlled Senate, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made his opposition clear. In May, he mocked the cannabis bank Democrats who pouted at their coronavirus relief proposal, and has since made it clear that he will not stand the bill before the Senate.

But that may not matter if the Democrats can win the two seats in the Georgia Senate in January. You could well get this legislation through both houses, which would be monumental. Even when it doesn’t, the fact that this law got through the First House shows the changing minds about legalizing cannabis. Senators’ opinion won’t be too far behind if they want to keep their seats, especially in places like Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana, which just legalized recreational cannabis back in November.

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