State and Local Governments Ask Congress to Prioritize Marijuana Legalization Bill

A group of local and state officials have sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives asking the federal body to prioritize proposed marijuana legalization legislation according to a Marijuana Moment article published on Wednesday. The article reported that the bill is expected to come to the House floor for approval following the Nov. 3 election.

House leaders initially indicated that a floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would happen in September, but, according to Marijuana Moment, “following pushback from certain centrist Democrats who worried about the optics of advancing marijuana reform before another coronavirus relief package, it was postponed until after the election.”

According to the article, the letter was submitted by local legislators from Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Massachusetts and Illinois officials also signed it. The letter stated, “[f]or those of us who manage state and municipal cannabis policies, and for those individuals who have been and continue to be impacted by cannabis policy, the need for comprehensive federal reform is clear and urgent.” It explained that “[e]xisting federal prohibition policies are antithetical to our collective responsibility to promote policies that are based in science, compassion and harm reduction.”

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) also supported the letter. The advocacy group said that regulators “need comprehensive support in their individual and collective efforts to more responsibly and equitably manage challenges and develop solutions associated with cannabis and cannabis policy.”

The only Republican MORE Act cosponsor, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) stated that he would vote for the bill. He also reportedly expressed concern about a provision therein imposing a federal excise tax on marijuana sales to be reinvested in communities deeply impacted by the war on drugs, calling the taxes “reparations.”

The letter comes almost two weeks after the Supreme Court declined to hear a federal marijuana decriminalization case. The Second Circuit’s decision rejecting arguments that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) misclassified the substance will stand.

However, another decriminalization case is pending before the Ninth Circuit. In that case, the petitioners challenged the DEA’s final rulemaking, which refused to reclassify marijuana from its Schedule I status after a citizen submitted a delisting petition earlier this year. The petitioners filed their opening brief on Sept. 29, followed by an amicus brief submitted by a collection of researchers, scientists, and doctors who support delisting.