It’s taken decades of tireless effort by advocates for cannabis reform, but on Friday, Dec. 4, the U.S. House of Representatives took a massive leap toward ending the failed and misguided war on drugs and normalizing cannabis by voting 278 to 164 for the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, federally legalizing marijuana.
Congressional Cannabis Caucus Co-chair Barbara Lee (D-CA) called the MORE Act “an important racial justice measure” and “the product of years of work by so many activists and advocates and young people—and it’s long overdue. It’s time to end these unjust laws which have shattered the lives of so many young people of color.”
In addition to decriminalizing cannabis, the MORE Act builds a pathway for expunging previous nonviolent federal cannabis convictions and allows for small business association funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses.
While few expect the Senate to promptly take up this historic legislation (Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is the lead sponsor of the Senate version of the bill), the vote, the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on the issue, represents a dramatic victory for cannabis reform.
During the debate, numerous lawmakers acknowledged the reality that citizens around the country have moved faster on this issue than the federal government. Longtime supporter of cannabis legalization Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), said, “This is an opportunity for the federal government to get in step with what has happened in states across the country,” adding, “People in five very different states reaffirmed the strong bipartisan support to reform the failed cannabis prohibition.”
In fact, it’s hard to find another issue with so much consensus. In the 2020 election, voters in five states, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey and Mississippi, which collectively represent the range of red to blue America, supported pro-cannabis initiatives by large margins. Additionally, Oregon voters approved decriminalization of small amounts of all illegal drugs, and they joined voters in Washington, D.C., in allowing for psilocybin to be used legally.
Over just the past decade, adult-use cannabis has become legal in 15 states and Washington, D.C, and medical cannabis legal in 36 states. By 2021, a full 70 percent of the country’s citizens will have legal access, and about one-third of citizens won’t need a medical card.
A Gallup poll released Nov. 9 reported that a whopping 68 percent of Americans support cannabis legalization. That’s more than the number of Americans who think human activity contributes to climate change.
These shifts in public and governmental opinion are being mirrored worldwide. The Dec. 4 approval of the MORE Act came three days after the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from the list of the world’s most dangerous drugs, a giant leap forward for international drug reform that will open up a massive opportunity to expand research into cannabis for medical use.
While there is still plenty of work to do to get cannabis fully legalized (we’re looking at you Georgia Senators election!), take a moment to feel the Bliss that comes with getting some truly great and monumental news.