Marijuana Regains its Mojo in Congress

After a period of dormancy due to the demands of the coronavirus pandemic, several major marijuana bills are enjoying renewed momentum in Congress.

Indeed, we’re witnessing the most marijuana-friendly Congress in United States history. The following July 28 tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is indicative of the growing sentiment in Washington and around the country to legalize cannabis:

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden knows that marijuana legalization is popular with the public and he’s been spotlighting the topic lately.

Biden said on Tuesday that criminal records for marijuana convictions are a significant impediment to economic opportunity, especially for minorities. During a speech on racial equity and the economy, the former vice president said:

“Getting caught for smoking marijuana when you’re young surely shouldn’t deny you, the rest of your life, being able to have a good paying job or a career or a loan or an ability to rent an apartment. Right now, that criminal record is the weight that holds back too many people of color, and many whites as well.”

Biden noted that the process of getting those records sealed or expunged can be “complicated and costly in the states where the records are kept.”

Biden continues to oppose (for now) lifting the federal ban on marijuana but he’s been steadily moving toward greater normalization of marijuana laws. He said that more states should “recognize the significant costs to their economy when people with certain non-violent criminal records can’t fully contribute to their full talents and capacity.”

A crowded docket of pot legislation…

Marijuana bills have been stymied in recent months by the COVID-19 crisis, but Washington is starting to dust them off and appears motivated to act.

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to soon vote on an amendment to protect all state, territory and tribal marijuana programs from Department of Justice (DOJ) interference after a committee advanced the measure on Tuesday.

The proposal would prevent DOJ from using its funds to impede the implementation of cannabis legalization laws. The House Rules Committee cleared the proposal for floor action, which is expected later this week.

The docket in Congress is brimming with other pot initiatives. Passage of one bill (or any combination thereof) would exert a huge positive impact on the investment side of the industry. Here’s a breakdown.

  • Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act

The MORE Act would federally deschedule cannabis and expunge the records of those with previous marijuana convictions. MORE would impose a 5% tax on cannabis sales, the revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most harmed by the War on Drugs.

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MORE also would expedite resentencing for people imprisoned for marijuana offenses, protect immigrants from being denied citizenship because of cannabis, and prevent federal agencies from blocking public benefits or security clearances due to its use.

Lawmakers indicated this week that the leadership of the U.S. House is moving toward holding a floor vote in September on the MORE Act.

  • Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act

Sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), this bill would federally deschedule marijuana, set aside funding for minority and women-owned cannabis businesses, and provide grants to help people expunge prior marijuana convictions. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the lead sponsor of a companion Senate bill.

  • Legitimate Use of Medicinal Marijuana Act

This legislation, from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), would move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act and stipulate that the federal government can’t “prohibit or otherwise restrict” state-legal use, possession, transportation, production and distribution of medical cannabis.

  • Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2019

A bipartisan group of House members, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), introduced the bill last year. It would simplify the registration process for researchers interested in studying cannabis and allow certified scientists to obtain research-grade cannabis from private manufacturers.

  • Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019

The Medical Cannabis Research Act, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), would require the Justice Department to approve additional manufacturers of research-grade marijuana, protect research institutions interested in conducting studies on cannabis, and authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to inform patients about federally approved cannabis studies in which they can participate.

  • Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is the sponsor of the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, a bill that would make it legal under federal law for military veterans to “use, possess, or transport medical marijuana” in state-legal systems. It also would allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to their patients.

I’m closely monitoring the progress of these bills and I’ll keep readers posted. With Congress resuming action on marijuana legislation in the second half of 2020, cannabusiness investments are poised to soar. For the best pot plays now, follow this link.

John Persinos is the editor-in-chief of Marijuana Investing Daily. You can reach him at: