Amid the rancor in Washington came a bill that is likely to further stir up the pot. A week ago, the House Judiciary Committee approved Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019. Passing in a 24-to-10 vote, the MORE Act has serious implications for the cannabis plant. Effectively, it would de-schedule cannabis, eliminating its federal ban.
According to The National Law Review:
Currently, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that the federal government considers to have no proven or acceptable medical use and a high abuse potential. The MORE Act, if passed into law, would remove marijuana from Schedule I.
The House Judiciary Committee’s actions are particularly significant on the heels of Veterans Day. Under current federal law, doctors at the VA can discuss marijuana use with patients, but they cannot recommend it, even in states where marijuana is legal under local law. To date, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Medical marijuana, prescribed by physicians, is legal in 33 states. But veterans can lose all VA benefits if they are found to be using cannabis, even if lawfully prescribed by a physician outside the VA.
However, one significant roadblock exists. Because the Senate is Republican-controlled, the MORE Act is unlikely to become law. Therefore, the bill is practically a meaningless gesture. After all, despite Republicans and Democrats coming together to pass the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill), the MORE Act is a different matter altogether.
Yet, I still believe that the bill is significant for one major reason: alignment with the will of the people.
The MORE Act Is What the People Want
Unless a miracle of God occurs, the MORE Act will die in the Senate. Yet the success of this bill doesn’t lie with its immediate passage. Rather, at this point, it’s about planting the seed in the electorate. From that perspective, the act is already a resounding success.
This is the first time in American history that a congressional committee approved a bill connected to marijuana legalization. Contrary to the 2018 Farm Bill, this is an unapologetic, no-frills legalization of cannabis. Currently, only industrial hemp and its derivatives (like CBD) are legal, so long as they contain no more than 0.3% THC content.
More importantly, the latest data from the Pew Research Center indicates that support for marijuana legalization is only increasing. Now, two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization while only 8% believe it should be illegal in all circumstances. In other words, sentiment has shifted two-fold in just a little over a decade.
Sure, Republicans can continue pandering to hardline conservatives. But if they want to be relevant in the future political environment, they must get on board with the people. And the people want weed. Not giving it to them is tantamount to political suicide.