Congress Embraces Pot as a Mainstream Issue

When I worked as a staffer in Congress, I would often observe members indirectly kill legislation through an insidious tactic known as “slow walking.” It’s a form of procrastination and delay, whereby a bill dies of neglect in committee and never makes it to a floor vote.

Concerns have arisen in recent weeks among pro-marijuana lawmakers that a major federal bill to decriminalize marijuana would be slow-walked into oblivion, due to the urgent priorities of the coronavirus pandemic.

But this week, growing ranks of Democratic lawmakers have vowed to forge ahead with the cannabis legislation. They emphasize that cannabusinesses generate new jobs, boost local economies, and plow tax revenue into the coffers of states that have legalized weed.

A vote on an historic bill to federally decriminalize marijuana will take place as planned during the week of September 21 in the U.S. House, the second highest ranking Democrat in the chamber announced this week.

The office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) insisted on Tuesday that the “schedule hasn’t changed” for a planned vote on the bill.

The bill in question is the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a comprehensive federal cannabis bill. The MORE Act would federally “deschedule” cannabis and expunge the records of those with previous marijuana convictions.

Descheduling is tantamount to decriminalizing. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies drugs into five schedules (i.e., categories). Schedule I drugs are considered by the DEA to have a dangerous potential for abuse and dependency. Marijuana falls into Schedule I, under the Controlled Substances Act.

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MORE also would facilitate resentencing for people imprisoned for marijuana offenses, among other provisions.

To clarify, decriminalization stops short of outright legalization; it means taking an act that is illegal and removing criminal penalties. Legalization means taking an act that is illegal and making it legal.

Concerns had been raised by House members that a vote on MORE would generate “bad optics,” as they say in Washington, because Congress has been stalled on a coronavirus relief package.

The House and Senate have been unable to come to terms on a new fiscal stimulus package to combat economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderate Democrats have expressed worries that Republicans will use a marijuana vote as ammunition to portray Democrats as “radical leftists” more concerned with making illegal drugs available than helping the suffering folks on Main Street.

In recent weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made speeches on the Senate floor that mocks Democrats for embracing marijuana reform, portraying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a San Francisco liberal and out of the mainstream.

But to the relief of marijuana advocates, Democratic leaders remain unfazed. Indeed, they’ve been arguing that normalizing marijuana is a kitchen table issue.

The twitter-sphere lights up for pot…

For better or worse, a major venue for communication from elected officials is Twitter. I continually monitor the social media platform to gauge the zeitgeist as it pertains to marijuana and judging by the tweets of recent days, the Democratic leadership in Congress remains firmly behind MORE.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted: “The time has come to decriminalize marijuana in this country” (see his tweet below).

Schumer also tweeted: “I’m fighting for the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act in the Senate. It ends federal prohibition. It addresses much-needed criminal justice reforms. It provides opportunities for minority- and women-owned small businesses.”

Sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act 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. Both versions await floor votes, which haven’t been scheduled.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) tweeted: “It’s past time for Congress to bring our country’s harmful and outdated marijuana laws into the 21st century. Senate Democrats are committed to doing just that.”

Public opinion polls show that removing legal restrictions from marijuana is a winning issue, even in “red states.” This political reality is reflected in the tweets of candidates throughout the country.

West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin tweeted: “The addiction epidemic has taken too many lives in WV & across this nation. Now with our economy struggling, we are seeing even MORE deaths of despair. We can revitalize and diversify our economy AND present new alternative treatments by legalizing #cannabis & enacting #M4A.”

New York Democratic congressional candidate Mondaire Jones tweeted: “Let’s legalize it.”

Indiana Democratic congressional candidate Andy Ruff tweeted: “Decriminalizing marijuana leaves the supply side illegal and does nothing to help Hoosier farmers. That’s why I support full LEGALIZATION. It gives #IN09 much needed tax revenue AND allows our ag community to tap into its unsurpassed knowledge and skills.”

The MORE Act stands a good chance of becoming law, which in turn would provide a huge positive catalyst for marijuana stocks.

Whether it’s decriminalization or full legalization, the mainstreaming of marijuana is a trend that can’t be stopped. After painstaking research, we’ve pinpointed cannabis investments with the greatest profit potential. Click here for our report on the best pot stocks.

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John Persinos is the editor-in-chief of Marijuana Investing Daily.