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Congress Alert

House Judiciary Committee Planning to Pass Dead-End Marijuana Legalization Bill


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New Pew Research Center poll results indicate Americans’ support for marijuana legalization continues to grow, with support reaching two-thirds among those questioned and maintaining majorities among Democrats, Republicans, and independents. This state of popular opinion, along with marijuana law liberalization continuing to move forward at state and local levels, are among the factors suggesting the time is ripe for legalization on the national level.

However, the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is not moving forward with a clean bill to repeal marijuana prohibition that would garner widespread public support and have a good chance of both passing in the Republican-controlled Senate and receiving President Donald Trump’s signature. Instead, the committee is scheduled to consider on Wednesday legislation that, in addition to national legalization, contains marijuana business subsidies and race-based provisions that likely mean the bill will have zero chance of passing in the Senate or receiving Trump’s support.

The bill, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884), was introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the committee’s chairman. And the bill’s cosponsors breakdown of 54 Democrats and just one Republican likely gives a good indication of the very lopsided partisan vote the bill would receive on the House floor.

House Democratic leadership settling on the MORE Act as the avenue for legalization appears to indicate they are settling on legalization not happening so long as Republicans control the Senate or Trump is president. They may think that sets up a good campaign issue for Democrats in the 2020 election. We’ll see.

Trump and Republican Congress members opposing the MORE Act can point to the bill going far beyond a hands-off approach of ending marijuana prohibition. Indeed, it would be interesting to see the Senate Republican leadership put forward a bill that just makes the US government butt out in regard to marijuana and then challenge the House Democratic leadership to decide whether it will hold out for adopting welfare for marijuana businesses and expanding race-based programs at the price of allowing the US government’s marijuana prohibition to continue.


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