As Westword’s Thomas Mitchell reports, legislation to end the federal blanket prohibition on marijuana and legitimize states like Colorado who have legalized cannabis is moving through the Democratic-controlled House:
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, better known as the MORE Act, would end federal marijuana prohibition while allowing states to regulate the plant as they see fit, as well as set up funding and programs that allow expungement for cannabis offenders and social equity within any potential federally legal pot industry.
Introduced by New York Representative Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, the MORE Act passed 24-10 out of the House Judiciary Committee, setting up a future vote on the House floor. However, Nadler’s role as Judiciary Committee chairman enabled the bill’s quick markup, and Republican representatives don’t seem to think the bill would receive Senate approval if it passes the House. [Pols emphasis] Before the vote, several brought up the States Act, a Senate bill that would leave marijuana legalization to states.
Colorado Congressman Ken Buck unsuccessfully tried attaching the States Act as an amendment to the MORE Act, claiming the Senate isn’t likely to touch the latter.
The States Act, as our toker-friendly readers know, is legislation in the U.S. Senate that would similarly leave the regulation of cannabis up to individual states. A key difference between the States Act, which has bipartisan support in the Senate including both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators, and the MORE Act is that federal law enforcement would still be able to bring federal charges under the States Act over marijuana violations in states where the drug remains illegal.
The biggest problem with the passage of either bill, however, remains Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–who has remained a steadfast opponent of THC-bearing cannabis even while loosening his position on industrial non-narcotic hemp cultivation. McConnell claims that hemp and cannabis grown for consumption are “two entirely separate plants,” deeming marijuana to be hemp’s “illicit cousin, which I choose not to embrace.” McConnell’s opposition to marijuana legalization is effectively a roadblock to any legislation to end federal prohibition–and the legislative fight in the Senate may center on the more limited SAFE Banking Act, to free up banking services for legal marijuana businesses in legalized states who are dangerously forced to do their business in cash.
The point in all this, which we’ve made previously about other issues on which local Republicans feint to the center like healthcare and immigration, is that Sen. Cory Gardner’s longstanding lip service to supporting the end of federal prohibition of marijuana is hobbled by the Republican Senate leadership Gardner voted into power. Gardner can tell Colorado’s marijuana stakeholders whatever he wants, but if he’s not willing to force a showdown over the issue with his own Republican leadership, Gardner’s platitudes on this and every other subject are meaningless.
At the end of the day, you dance with the one who brung you.