Don’t Get Excited About Federalized Cannabis Just Yet

Many rejoiced the other day when the Cannabis news dropped that the The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, had been passed. But the fact of the matter is, everyone’s celebrating this historic achievement when we also need to consider the reality that the bill has to go through a Republican-led Senate as well.

NY Daily News shares that the act “would remove pot from the federal list of controlled substances, expunge low-level marijuana arrests, and set up a 5% sales tax to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by drug enforcement, among other steps,” but considering that the bill has only passed within the House of Representatives, we will still have to circulate it through the Senate in order for approval. 

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz had a lot to say, and according to NY Daily News, argued that “the war on drugs has proven to be a failure that has done incalculable harm, especially to minorities, and that it’s time to align federal law with those in dozens of states that have decriminalized pot.”

“If we were measuring the success in the war on drugs, it would be hard to conclude anything other than the fact that drugs have won,” said Gaetz.

“The failed war on drugs first began almost 50 years ago, when Richard Nixon declared drug abuse public enemy number one,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), quoted by  NY Daily News, noting that since then prison populations soared from about 200,000 to around 2.3 million now, and minorities account for up to 80% of pot arrests.

“We have ruined lives, families and communities. It is a stain on our democracy,” Jeffries said. “Marijuana use is either socially acceptable behavior or its criminal conduct, but it can’t be socially acceptable behavior in some neighborhoods and criminal conduct in other neighborhoods, when the dividing line is race.”

Unfortunately, with the wide support on the Democrats side, with only 6 opposing, the Republican side is saying that we should be focusing more on Coronavirus, as well as their strong outdated beliefs that Marijuana is still a bad drug and should be strictly regulated. 

“Marijuana is one of the most abused substances on this planet,” said Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.)., quoted by NY Daily News. “Yes, legalizing weed would create revenue from taxes, but at what cost? Do we then start legalizing cocaine? Marijuana is a gateway drug, make no mistake about that. It undoubtedly leads to further and much more dangerous drug use.”

While it seems bleak that the Republican-led Senate will vote yes, there were still some Republicans in the House of Representatives that voted for Marijuana use. 



Of course, Senate-majority leader Mitch McConnell is complaining about this, according to Fox News, despite the fact that the team he is set to lead cannot come to agreement on a second Stimulus Bill with Democrats. 

 “The House of Representatives is spending this week on pressing issues like marijuana,” McConnell said from the Senate floor Thursday. “You know, serious, important legislation benefiting the national crisis.”

“If Pelosi was serious about marijuana reform we would take a vote on the STATES Act, which would pass the Senate and be signed into law,” NYT quotes Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said, referencing a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate that would legalize marijuana. “But she isn’t. So we’ll do this instead.”

But it’s not just the allure of being able to legally smoke weed federally, but also the legislations that come with it. If passed by both the House and Senate, according to The New York Times, “The law would require federal courts to release those serving sentences for nonviolent, marijuana-related offenses, and set up grant programs focused on providing job training, legal aid and substance use treatment, as well as grants for small businesses in the marijuana industry led by low-income and minority business owners. Physicians with the Department of Veterans Affairs would also be allowed for the first time to recommend medical marijuana to their patients.”

According to stats from MSNBC from the Last Prisoner Project, 40,000 Americans are still in prison on marijuana offenses, and the ACLU reported that Black Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested. NBC’s Tom Costello spoke with Evelyn LaChapelle who spent five-years in jail separated from her 4-year-old daughter.

“Marijuana use is either socially acceptable behavior or it’s criminal conduct,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, is quoted saying by NYT. “But it can’t be socially acceptable behavior in some neighborhoods and criminal conduct in other neighborhoods when the dividing line is race.”

We have a long way to go, and while it’s a celebratory moment for Cannabis as a whole, we’re not cleared to light up the U.S.A. just yet. 



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