Even in the 18 U.S. states where recreational marijuana use is legal, it is still a federal crime to use it.
Now, lawmakers in Congress are trying to establish some continuity between state and federal laws on cannabis use.
Recreational use of marijuana is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, the District of Columbia, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan, Vermont, Illinois, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, New Mexico and Connecticut. Using cannabis for medical purposes is legal 37 states, including Hawaii and Missouri.
“Cannabis should be legalized in this country. States are individually moving in that direction. We need some federal legislation to regularize the laws all across the country,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass) who is a supporter of the MORE Act.
Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee held a hearing on the legislation. The next step for the MORE Act, also known as the ‘‘Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act’’, will be a full House vote. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who introduced the legislation, spoke at this week’s committee hearing. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo) is among the 114 co-sponsors of the legislation.
“Last Congress, the House voted on a bipartisan basis to address this issue. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act,” Nadler said.
The bill, which would make cannabis use legal at the federal level and would allow those convicted of minor marijuana offenses the opportunity to get those cases taken off their criminal record.
“The expungement part and the social equity pieces of these are very, very important... We have a multi-billion dollar industry, and then we’re still arresting 600,000 people every single year,” said Toi Hutchinson, the president and CEO at the Marijuana Policy Project.
Although mostly from Democrats, the proposal does still have enough support in the House that they expect it to pass again. Advocates of the legislation have said that with Democrats holding the majority, in both the House and Senate, that this is the ideal time to make the change.
Some of those who oppose the legalization of marijuana at the federal level believe that there isn’t enough support in the Senate for the measure to get the 60 votes needed to pass.
“There are too many Democratic senators, especially who don’t want this me Joe Manchin is not going to vote for it. The New Hampshire delegation is not going to vote for it. I don’t think Sen. Tester will vote for it,” said Kevin Sabet, the President of “Smart Approaches to Marijuana”.
Back at the House of Representatives, the federal legalization of marijuana use has the attention and support of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“The fact is it exists, its being used. We’ve got to address how it is treated legally and not in a way that mistreats people in the lower income scale,” Pelosi said during a press conference on Thursday.
It is still unclear is whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer feels the same. His office told Spectrum News that he’s still working on his own legislation to address the same issue, but with a few differences. Schumer’s proposal, called the “Cannabis Opportunity and Administration Act”, is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.
Spectrum News asked Schumer if he had any plan to support the MORE Act or whether he would only vote for his own proposal. The senator’s office said that down the line, there may be some compromise between the two.