Crime

Federal Marijuana Legalization Could Get a House Vote This Week

As talks of federal weed legalization continue, Texas continues to crack down on hemp products.
As talks of federal weed legalization continue, Texas continues to crack down on hemp products. Jacob Vaughn
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on a bill that would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and send funds to communities disproportionately affected by the drug war.

Titled the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, it's sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler.

An earlier version of the bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate last year. But, since the MORE Act made it through the Judiciary Committee this time around, cannabis reform activists have been urging the House to vote on it by the end of March.

The cannabis news site Marijuana Moment reported on rumors of a possible vote, which were confirmed when House leaders placed the MORE Act on a list of bills they plan to take up this week. On Monday, the Rules Committee will hold a meeting to prep the bill for a House vote. This includes deciding what amendments can be made to the bill before moving forward.

Under the bill, people with prior convictions can have their records expunged and cannabis-related jail sentences could be reconsidered. There’s also language in the bill intended to keep people from being denied citizenship because of cannabis use, and that would restrict federal agencies from denying benefits or security clearance for cannabis consumption.

But, if this bill gets stuck again, there may still be hope for federal cannabis legalization this session. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been talking up his own cannabis legalization legislation and recently said there are plans to file it in April. It’s called the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act. His bill would legalize marijuana on the federal level, but ultimately leave it up to states to decide if they want to legalize.

“We should decriminalize marijuana.” – President Joe Biden

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That doesn’t bode well for people in a state like Texas, which is actively trying to ban smokable hemp, and psychoactive hemp products like delta-8 THC. A legal decision on smokable hemp in Texas is expected this summer.

Some members of the Senate and House of Representatives seem to be on board with some form of federal legalization. Last June, Amazon, the second-largest employer in the country, announced it too supported federal legalization and would lobby for it. One person who doesn’t seem to be on board is President Joe Biden.

According to Politico, Biden has said in the past that people shouldn’t land in jail for cannabis offenses. He’d later say during a town hall event on the campaign trail, “We should decriminalize marijuana.” But, that hasn’t happened yet and early in his term he fired members of his staff for cannabis use. Additionally, he’s only used his clemency-granting powers to pardon Thanksgiving turkeys while masses of people still sit behind bars on federal marijuana charges. The White House still says Biden plans to pardon nonviolent drug offenders, but that hasn’t happened yet either.

It’s not all bad, though.

Biden recently signed a government spending bill that recommended new regulations for hemp-derived cannabinoids like CBD, as well as research into expanding the federal THC cap on hemp. The current federal cap on THC in hemp is .3%, which people in the industry say is too restrictive. The president’s administration has also lived up to a campaign promise that it would let states continue with their own cannabis reform efforts without federal intervention.

That’s great for people in states that are more open to reform – not so great for Texans.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn