Will Joe Biden legalize marijuana if sponsored by Republicans?

If nine in ten Americans think marijuana should be legal for adults – and according to a Pew Research poll in April, they do – it raises an obvious question: why didn’t Congress pass legalization. federal marijuana?

The country’s closest contact with national cannabis reform came last December, when the House of Representatives first approved a legalization bill with a vote on the ground. As expected, the milestone was symbolic: The Marijuana Desirability, Reinvestment, and De-listing Act (or the MORE Act) was not the subject of a Senate hearing by the majority leader of then, Mitch McConnell. (The fact that his godfather was then Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), The vice president-elect, probably didn’t help.)

With Democrats in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House – and with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, an avowed supporter of legalization, will things be different or better? House Democrats on Friday reintroduced the MORE law on Friday, which would remove cannabis from the federal controlled substances law, erase certain marijuana-related offenses from individuals’ criminal records, and direct money to individuals and communities. affected by the war on drugs.

But this time around, there are competing visions on how to legalize cannabis on Capitol Hill, including a business-friendly legalization bill sponsored by House Republicans. If a divided Senate balks at a progressive view of legalizing marijuana, and President Joe Biden is uncomfortable with progressive politics in general, a moderate version pushed by Republicans – and backed by the drug industry marijuana – could it be an acceptable compromise?

One of the competitors to the MORE law is what is known as the “Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Health Care Professionals.” Sponsored by Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce and Alaska Rep. Don Young – both Republicans – the bill does part of what the MORE Act would do, with one very critical difference: it omits elements of reinvestment and opportunity.

Instead, the bill legalizes the interstate cannabis trade, encourages research into medical cannabis, and creates access for military veterans. Regulations for a national marijuana industry would be the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration and the Treasury Department, which are expected to issue federal guidelines within one year of their adoption.

For all these reasons, pro-cannabis corporate lobbies in Washington have warmly welcomed the Republicans-led legalization effort.

There are more differences between the two bills, on important points like taxation and research as well as social justice reform. But who cares about the content of a bill if it never becomes law?

If the sponsors of the MORE Act are to do anything other than make another superficial statement, they’ll need the Republicans’ help – and much of it. Passing the MORE law in the Senate, where obscure rules require at least 60 votes to pass most substantive laws, will require the support of ten Senate Republicans as well as all Democrats. And given that several Senate Democrats have already voiced their opposition to legalization, unless there is a significant change in the dynamics of Capitol Hill, it seems unlikely.

It gives new life to Joyce and Young’s Republican legalization proposal. This would be true even if President Joe Biden, the de facto leader of the Democratic Party, had not registered deep reluctance to substantive changes in marijuana policy. (According to an April press briefing by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Biden wants to move cannabis to Schedule II, a half-step that would wipe out the cannabis industry as it is. currently organized.)

The current MORE law is even more progressive than the version passed by Congress last winter. This could be a real responsibility among Republicans in both houses of Congress. Only five Republicans signed the MORE law in December – and 168 House members voted against it. In other words, if the MORE law had the same support in the Senate as it did in the House, the MORE law would fail.

It may be a few months before either bill is heard. If suspicious senators cannot support the MORE law for whatever reason – it is too awake, it is too democratic – an alternative that achieves many of the same goals can become an attractive compromise, especially if it really stands a chance. to pass. After all, that’s what people want.

About Therese Williams

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