Bill decriminalizing marijuana no longer on Democratic-run House’s schedule for next week
Analysts say the measure won’t become law this year even if the House passes it, as it lacks support in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was advanced in November by the House Judiciary Committee, also aims to expunge prior marijuana convictions and spur re-sentencing hearings for people still under supervision.
A schedule for next week’s legislative business that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released on Thursday didn’t include the MORE Act. After next week, the House is due to be in session for just one other week before going on break ahead of the Nov. 3 elections.
Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters that the chamber’s priorities are coronavirus aid and a continuing resolution, or CR, that would fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown.
“I’m a supporter of the MORE Act, but we’ve got to get the CR and the COVID-19 done, because they are absolutely critical to the welfare of our country,” Hoyer said. “There are a lot of bills that are possible, which are important bills, good bills, but we’re focused on COVID-19 and the CR.”
That comment followed reports that some House Democrats are not happy that the chamber could end up passing the cannabis bill this month while not making a deal with Republicans on a relief package. The office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an email on Monday, saying she “won’t make time for more COVID relief, but apparently she will, again, make time for marijuana.”
In a statement on Thursday, Hoyer said the MORE Act “remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform, and we are committed to bringing it to the Floor for a vote before the end of the year.” He said the chamber “later this autumn” will pass the legislation “with strong support.”
A House approval for the MORE Act followed by no Senate action would mirror what has happened to the SAFE Banking Act, a measure that aims to protect banks KBE, -0.31% that work with the cannabis industry. That legislation was passed by the House a year ago, but then a Republican senator who chairs a key committee said in December that he didn’t support it.
“House passage of the MORE Act may only be symbolic, but it is still significant,” said Jaret Seiberg, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group, in a recent note. “It was inconceivable just four years ago that the House would vote to legalize cannabis.”
“More substantive progress will depend upon the election,” Seiberg also said. “If the election were today, Joe Biden would likely win and the Democrats would likely hold a narrow edge in the Senate. This is the most bullish outcome possible for cannabis.”
With 47 days to go before the Nov. 3 election, Biden, the Democratic challenger, has an edge of 3.7 percentage points over President Donald Trump in a RealClearPolitics moving average of polls focused on top swing states that are likely to decide the White House race. Meanwhile, the Cook Political Report and other analysts have said Democrats are favored to take control of the Senate.
Jonathan Nicholson contributed to this report.
This is an updated version of a report first published on Sept. 15, 2020.