Legalizing Marijuana Is Not So Much the Goal of the US Congress Leadership’s Legalization Bills

by | Apr 3, 2022

Why hasn’t the United States Congress sent to President Joe Biden legislation to end the US government’s war on marijuana already? We are over four years into about two-thirds of Americans supporting marijuana legalization and majority support being reached among Republicans. Yet, the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives and Senate keeps failing to take the steps needed for Congress to deliver legalization legislation to the president. Why?

The answer, Jacob Sullum suggests, in a Friday Reason article concerning marijuana legislation approved last week in the House, is that the Democratic leadership is more interested in political posturing regarding marijuana than in actually ending the war on marijuana. Sullum begins his article as follows:

The House of Representatives today approved a bill that would repeal the federal ban on marijuana by a vote of 220 to 204. The yes votes included 217 Democrats but just three Republicans, two fewer than voted for an earlier version of the bill, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Actwhen the House approved it in December 2020.

The nearly nonexistent Republican support for the MORE Act in the House does not bode well for its chances in the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster even if Democrats unanimously supported the bill. The same goes for the legalization bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) plans to introduce next month.

The MORE Act and the draft bill that Schumer unveiled last July both include unnecessarily contentious provisions that are apt to alienate Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to resolve the conflict between federal prohibition and state laws that allow medical or recreational use of marijuana. Those provisions, which include new taxes, regulations, and spending programs, suggest that Democrats want credit for trying to legalize marijuana but are not really interested in building the bipartisan coalition that would be necessary to accomplish that goal.

Continue reading Sullum’s article here.

Indeed, if the Democratic leadership really wants to legalize marijuana soon, it should follow the advice Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) has been offering: Have a vote on a bill focused narrowly on legalization, leaving out all the extraneous provisions that repel Republicans.

It seems like a big part of the reason why Democratic leadership will not move forward with such a clean bill that could obtain greater support among Republicans and thus make its way to the president is that, with legalization on the national level appearing inevitable, interest groups have jumped with vigor into the legalization legislative process. A simple bill just ending the war on marijuana is not what many of these groups want. Instead, they want to use marijuana legalization — or hold it hostage — to achieve their own distinct goals. I have written about this situation herehere, and here.

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  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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