Legalization advocates issue statements of support for planned MORE Act vote

Cannabis advocates show support for planned MORE Act House vote

As members of Congress announce that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act will receive a floor vote next week, advocates are showing their support for the bill. With counterpart legislation expected soon in the Senate, groups like Marijuana Policy Project, NORML and Human Rights Watch have issued reports and statements.

Sen. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the MORE Act of 2021 last May. The stated purpose of the MORE Act is to remove cannabis as a controlled substance, tax sales of the plant for social equity and Drug War reparation programs, and provide a path for those convicted of federal marijuana crimes in the past to have them expunged, or removed.

Before the vote was announced, on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling for Congress to consider H.R. 3617. The House Judiciary Committee, headed by Nadler, voted 26 to 15 in favor of a floor vote in September.

“Another House floor vote on the newly introduced version of this bill is an urgent step towards advancing long overdue reform in the criminal legal system and beyond.” read the press release.

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Among its reasons, the rights advocacy group referenced a 2016 report that it co-authored with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). According to the report, a person is arrested in the U.S. for drug possession for personal use every 25 seconds. Making matters worse, it states that “Black adults were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for possession.”

“Advancing this legislation to deschedule marijuana and to help those individuals and communities that have borne the brunt of America’s failed prohibition is pivotal,” said Morgan Fox in a statement yesterday, after the vote was announced.

A longtime cannabis advocate, Fox serves as Political Director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He thanked a number of congressional representatives supportive of cannabis reform on behalf of cannabis consumers. NORML has supported decriminalization efforts since its founding in the 1970s.

Related: Nation’s Largest Cannabis Policy Reform Group Releases Report On The Laws That Lag the Furthest Behind Public Opinion (Updated)

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) threw their weight behind reform legislation in a more general way on Tuesday. The group issued a report in accord with the 50th anniversary of the Shafer Commission. They called on Congress to heed the Commission’s recommendations that cannabis be decriminalized nationwide. Passing the MORE Act would be a big step in that direction.

“It is absolutely amazing that in 2022 we have a multi-billion dollar industry and an entire ecosystem around it, and at the same time we’re still arresting almost 600,000 people a year for simple possession.” said Toi Hutchinson, MPP’s executive director, during a virtual press conference.

Related: Marijuana Policy Project names Pennsylvania one of 19 states with worst weed laws

Though the MORE Act faces resistance, it’s likely to clear the Democrat-controlled House. An impressive 113 House Democrats have signed on as cosponsors of H.R. 3617. They are joined by a single Republican, Florida’s Matt Gaetz.

The legislation passed the Republican-controlled House in 2019, with strong support. However, after being introduced in the Senate by Vice President Kamala Harris, then a senator, it died in the Senate Finance Committee. Even if it had been taken up, the bill faced long odds with Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in charge.

Democratic Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), who replaced McConnell as the majority last January, already has legislation in the works. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) joined Schumer last summer in introducing the Cannabis Administration & Organization Act. After receiving requested input from cannabis stakeholders last September, the revised bill is expected to serve as a counterpart to H.R. 3617.