On September 21, 2020, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the “Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act” or “MORE Act.” The MORE Act does not legalize marijuana nationwide, but it does remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (thus decriminalizing it under federal law and allowing states to decide whether to legalize). It also requires the expungement of certain marijuana-related criminal records and provides for grants to communities impacted by the War on Drugs.
We expect the MORE Act to pass, perhaps overwhelmingly, in the House for several reasons. First, it dovetails with the current focus on social justice. Second, it was originally co-sponsored in the Senate by vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris and so House Democrats will likely rally in support. And third, support for marijuana reform is strong throughout the country, and marijuana reform bills have consistently generated significant support in the House. We would not expect this bill to be any different. The problem remains the Senate, however. In the current political environment, we do not foresee any reasonable possibility that the Senate moves the MORE Act forward in the near future. It is possible that the election results will provide a political realignment on this issue, but even then, we would be hesitant to predict Senate approval any time soon.
That means the vote on September 21st will be largely symbolic. But symbolic votes can nevertheless be important. The House passing the MORE Act would (1) send yet another resounding message that Americans wants cannabis reform at the federal level, (2) signal that this issue is not going away, and (3) add to the increasing pressure on the Senate. Perhaps that additional pressure results in the passage of something less comprehensive than the MORE Act, but still consequential, such as the SAFE Banking Act. Or even better, perhaps we will look back at the House’s passage of the MORE Act as a significant step towards federal decriminalization or legalization.