Marijuana legalization vote postponed after backlash from moderates

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Nancy Pelosi told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that the Democrats are “committed to staying” until a coronavirus stimulus deal is reached.

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Democrats in the House of Representatives postponed a planned vote next week on marijuana legalization following a backlash from moderate Democrats.

The legislation, the MORE Act, would legalize marijuana at the federal level and expunge some marijuana-related criminal records, though it left the decision on the sale of marijuana up to the states.

According to a senior Democratic aide, lawmakers in tough re-election contests wanted the House to first pass COVID-19 relief before acting on marijuana legalization.

Another senior Democratic aide said a group of moderate Democrats had made the case to party leadership that they wanted to focus on legislation other than pot legalization given the risks posed at the ballot box – and their argument won over party leaders. 

The MORE Act would probably not come up until after the election, according to twoaides.  

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement the House would pass the MORE Act “later this autumn,” but right now, “the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Congress has a just few weeks left in its scheduled session to pass COVID-19 legislation and bills to keep the government funded. The House is scheduled to stay in session until Oct. 2, though Pelosi promised the body would remain in session until a deal is brokered on COVID-19 relief. The Senate is scheduled to stay until Oct. 9. After they leave, the two chambers are not scheduled to return until after Election Day.

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Pelosi and the Trump administration came to an informal deal earlier this month that would extend government funding at the current operating levels. It’s still unclear how long the bills will extend to, and whether there will be any other legislation attached to the funding bills. Leaders on both sides of the aisle have said they do not want to add COVID-19 relief funding to the spending bills.

The government will shut down on Sept. 30 unless Congress passes a continuing resolution and the president signs off. Hoyer, D-Md., announced Thursday the House would consider stopgap government funding legislation next week.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told reporters Thursday talks over government funding were “going quite well.”

“I don’t think anybody wants to be responsible for shutting down the government on the eve of an election in the middle of a pandemic, so it’s a rare outbreak of common sense on both sides,” he said, though he acknowledged there was still disagreement over extending government funding through December, or until February or March, when a new Congress would be sworn in.

Cole said the spending bill could be a “vehicle” for other legislation like COVID-19 relief if all sides

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House to vote on federal legalization for the first time

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President Trump talked about Kenosha and how well it’s doing before his planned visit, but Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is urging him to ‘reconsider’ after a week of unrest.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled House will vote on legalizing marijuana at the federal level for the first time in the chamber’s history later this month, a hurdle Democrats and advocates are celebrating as Congress grapples with a host of pressing issues before the November election. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the House would vote on the MORE Act during the week of Sept. 21. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge some marijuana-related criminal records, though it would still be up to states to pass their own regulations on the sale of marijuana. 

“It’s about time,” Nadler told USA TODAY, calling it a “historic vote” marking the beginning of the end of the federal government’s “40-year, very misguided crusade” against marijuana. 

Maritza Perez, director of the office of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, a group advocating for the decriminalization of drugs, said her organization was “thrilled,” saying the bill would “begin to repair some of the harms caused by the war on drugs in communities of color and low-income communities.” 

The House’s vote comes as views of marijuana have changed in Washington and increased numbers of Americans support the legalization of the drug, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes. And while this bill is likely to fail in the Republican-majority Senate, advocates still saw the vote as a step forward.

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“I don’t even know if two years ago, I would have said that an act like this would have passed,” said Adam Goers, the vice president of corporate affairs at Columbia Care, which operates marijuana dispensaries across the country.

According to a 2019 Gallup survey, 66% of Americans supported legalization, though support did differ by party. More than three-quarters of Democrats said they supported legalization, as opposed to about half of Republicans.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., told USA TODAY, “the country has moved” its views on marijuana. 

With Congress’ action, “there’s a recognition of where the states are, and we’re not going to put the genie back in the bottle when it comes to cannabis,” he said, referring to the states who have already legalized marijuana in some form. “And we just need to move forward with these pieces of legislation and get the federal and state laws to align with each other.”

Marijuana is currently regulated by a patchwork of laws at the state and federal levels, and Goers said legalization at the federal level would add “normalization” for businesses and states by legalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia

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