Moderate Democrats had urged Democrat leadership to hold any marijuana bill, concerned with how any votes could affect their re-election.
Don’t expect any bills that would legalize cannabis to receive floor votes until after the Election. The Marijuana, Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would have effectively legalized cannabis nationwide and expunged marijuana-related records, was scheduled for a vote this month in the House of Representatives, but that won’t happen until later this year.
The MORE Act had become politicized in recent weeks, with Republicans criticizing the Democrat-controlled House for voting on a cannabis bill when Congress still hasn’t passed a new round of coronavirus stimulus relief. Moderate Democrats were also concerned how that appeared.
“At a time when people are really struggling just to pay the bills and to get through this health crisis, [COVID relief] should be our priority,” centrist Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) told The Hill.
Peters is up for re-election this year. A group of moderate Democrats had privately urged Democratic leadership to pull the MORE Act vote amid worries how it could backfire at the ballot.
Though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) removed the bill from the schedule, he said Democrats are “committed” to voting on the legislation this year.
“Right now, the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Later this autumn, the House will pass the MORE Act with strong support as yet another crucial step toward making our justice system fair for all Americans,” he said
The move received notable criticism among cannabis advocates, who argued that communities that continue to be impacted by federal cannabis polices can’t wait for a “politically convenient” moment.
“Unfortunately, this decision means justice delayed for millions of Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income individuals disproportionately impacted by our country’s racist marijuana law,” Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Fresh Toast.
We cannot continue to force these communities to wait for a ‘politically convenient’ moment while they continue to be robbed of employment opportunities, housing, education, other government programs, and even their children or immigration status,” she continued. “If members of Congress are serious in their commitment to responding to calls for racial justice, then this vote must take place the moment the House is back in session following the elections.”