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Congress Alert

Interest Groups Tell Congress Members to Legalize Marijuana Via the MORE Act. But, if You Want Legalization Soon, Less is Likely More.


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If you would like the United States government to legalize marijuana soon, I have some good news and some bad news for you.

First, the good news: A group of fourteen organizations calling themselves the Marijuana Justice Coalition on Tuesday sent a letter to United States Congress members encouraging them to cosponsor a bill that would legalize marijuana, with the goal of passing the bill this congressional session, which ends in January.

Among the organizations in the group are the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Also included are the drug war-focused organizations the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Drug Policy Alliance, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Now for the bad news: The particular bill the organizations are encouraging Congress members to cosponsor “to help ensure its swift passage this Congressional session” is the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884). That bill, because it includes in addition to legalization particular provisions that are dealbreakers for many Republicans, appears destined to be dead on arrival in the Republican-majority US Senate and at the White House should it be approved in the US House. In July and November of 2019 articles, I wrote about the MORE Act and how its inclusion of race-based provisions and marijuana business subsidies make the bill seem incapable of gaining much Republican support.

If legalizing marijuana soon is the goal, then asking Congress members to cosponsor a simple, clean legalization bill that would appeal to many Republicans would make more sense. Pushing a virtually Democrats-only bill instead appears to rely for success on taking an additional step of Democrats first gaining control of the Senate and presidency in addition to keeping control of the House.

That change in partisan control could be brought about in the upcoming November election. But, if it fails to materialize, the spinning of wheels on the MORE Act will likely be of little or no help in advancing marijuana legalization until at least after the 2022 or 2024 US general election — if ever. What concentrating effort on advancing the MORE Act could do in the meantime is stand in the way of moving forward a stripped-down bipartisan legalization bill.
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