A coalition of law enforcement officials is urging the House to legalize the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. A new poll indicates that 62% of likely voters, which includes both Republicans and Democrats, support the bill. It would legalize, regulate and control cannabis at the federal level. In this article I will explain the MORE Act and give details of this latest poll on voter support for cannabis reform.
On Wednesday, August 19, 2020 over 50 current and former law enforcement officials signed a letter addressed to the leaders of the US House in support of the MORE Act. They urged them to hold a House floor vote on the bill in September. The MORE Act passed the House Judiciary Committee last year. The next step is to bring it to the House floor for a vote.
Organized by the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and Fair and Just Prosecution, signatories included the following:
- 4 current attorneys general from DE, MN, NY and OR
- 1 former attorney general from OH
- National Black Police Associations
- Dozens of current and former prosecutors and police officials
In the opinion of the law enforcement coalition, it is more beneficial for the citizens of this country that lawmakers responsibly regulate and control cannabis than prohibit and criminalize it. Furthermore, the pandemic has exposed the need to pass this reform for public health and safety so that law enforcement resources may be freed up for better use.
Reasons For The Need for Federal Cannabis Legalization
1. Provides the opportunity for law enforcement to restore and rebuild broken relationships between themselves and the people they protect and serve. This will be easier to achieve if law enforcement officers are no longer arresting citizens for non-violent, low-level cannabis offenses.
2. Transfers the use of public resources from prosecuting low-level cannabis offenses to solving violent serious crimes
3. Decreases the size and power of the black market
4. Shifts the focus towards treatment programs rather than criminal punishment for those addicted to harmful drugs
5. Stops wasting already overtaxed police resources
6. Promotes public safety
7. Reduces access for those under 21 years of age
8. Repairs the damage that prohibition has done to low-income, minority communities
Survey of Likely Voter Support for Federal Legalization
In a May, 2020 survey of 1,235 likely voters on cannabis reform legislation, the following data was collected:
- 58% of voters, including 54% of Republicans, supported federal legalization for use and sale of cannabis
- 69% of voters, including 67% of Republicans, believe that the federal government should respect states’ rights
- 63% of voters, including 59% of Republicans, support the use of cannabis tax dollars for community reinvestment
- 65% of voters, including 67% of Republicans, agree that cannabis tax funds provide valuable revenue for states
- 62% of voters supported federal legalization after being made aware of the specifics of the MORE Act
Even in states where cannabis remains illegal:
- 60% of voters, including 58% of Republicans, believe that law enforcement officers should stop arresting people for possession for personal use
- 55% of voters, including 50% of Republicans, believe that law enforcement officers should stop arresting people for the sale of small quantities of cannabis
Two long-time advocates for cannabis reform and co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucas, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), gave a press conference on the results of the survey.
Rep. Lee believes that the poll results indicate that the American people are “sending a clear message.” Public opinion has favored cannabis reform for some time and it is time for Congress “to catch up” and respond by passing this legislation. She reiterated that the passage of the MORE Act would correct the historical injustices of the War on Drugs. Minority and low-income communities have been disproportionately impacted due to the arrest and mass incarceration of black and brown people for low-level, non-violent cannabis offenses.
Rep. Blumenauer made it clear that many lawmakers are very concerned about the racial justice component of the bill and that “nothing is more important than to pass the MORE Act and completely legalize cannabis.”
The chief sponsor of this legislation is House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerrold Nadler, (D-NY). Rep. Matt Gaetz, (R-FL) is one of the sponsors for this bill. Gaetz acknowledged that the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) is “absolutely a step in the right direction.” However, he criticized the provision that gives a 5% sales tax to fund community programs that help those convicted of cannabis-related offenses. He described it as a type of “reparations” but said he will still vote in favor of the bill.
What The MORE Act Does
1. Deschedules cannabis
2. Expunges the records of those with previous cannabis convictions
3. Places a federal sales tax of 5% to be reinvested in communities most impacted by prohibition for which there is bipartisan support
4. Facilitates the resentencing of those imprisoned for cannabis offenses
5. Protects immigrants with cannabis convictions from being denied citizenship
6. Stops federal agencies from denying those entitled to public benefits or security clearances due to cannabis usage
September 4, 2020 Update: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (D-MD) announced that a vote would take place the week of September 21.
Please call your US House member of Congress to urge them to support the MORE Act.
marijuanamoment.net, Top State Cops Tell Congress To Legalize Marijuana As New Poll Shows Strong Voter Support, Kyle Jaeger, Aug. 19, 2020
usatoday.com, House Will Vote on Federal Marijuana Legalization for The First Time, Bill’s Future in Senate Uncertain, Nicholas Wu, Sept. 4, 2020