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Rep. Thomas Massie’s Attempt to Save Marijuana Legalization from the MORE Act

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A year ago, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) was pointing out that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act being used by Democratic leadership in the United States House of Representatives as the vehicle for marijuana legalization was actually delaying progress toward marijuana legalization on the national level. If the Democratic leadership really wants to end the US government’s marijuana prohibition, Massie argued, it should ditch the MORE Act with its extraneous provisions that turn off most Republican House members and even some Democrat House members and instead bring to the House floor a “straight up clean” bill eliminating the US government’s criminalization of activities related to marijuana.

The Democratic leadership did not follow Massie’s advice last year. Instead, it kept pushing the MORE Act, resulting in the bill passing in the Democratic-majority House in a very partisan vote but going nowhere in the then-Republican-majority Senate. In the new Congress begun this year, the House’s Democratic leadership is again pushing the virtually Democrats only MORE Act, designated as HR 3617 this Congress. It makes one wonder if the power behind the scenes either thinks the new razor-thin Democratic majority in the Senate will deliver approval of the bill or, it seems more likely, thinks it is fine to score political points with the very partisan bill while ensuring the US government’s marijuana prohibition stays in place.

Massie, who supports ending the US government’s war on marijuana, tried last week to save legalization from a repeated death in the clutches of the MORE Act. During House Judiciary Committee consideration of the bill on Thursday, Massie offered an amendment to remove extraneous provisions from the bill to create a bill focused on ending US government anti-marijuana laws and enabling expungement for people previously convicted of violating those laws. Gone from the bill, explained Massie in his speech in favor of adoption of the amendment, would be 75 pages of the 89 pages bill. Removed provisions. Massie explained, would include provisions creating new licensing and tax requirements related to marijuana as well as new marijuana crimes created in the bill for enforcing these new requirements.

The amendment, Massie argued, would prove key for the MORE Act becoming law. Massie explained:

This MORE Act came to the floor [in 2020] substantially just like the one we are looking at here today. When it came to the floor, it should have had a lot of Republican votes. You could say it was bipartisan because it had five Republican votes on the floor. But, guess what — it had six Democrat ‘nos.’ Six moderate Democrats voted ‘no’ on this bill. That shows you how partisan this bill is. Two of those Democrats didn’t return in a banner year for Democrat elections.

And this bill shouldn’t have to be something that’s politically perilous. Look, it’s hard for Republicans to vote for a bill that legalizes marijuana. I understand that. I polled this in my district. A majority of Republicans in my district do not support legalizing marijuana. But I also found out, though, that 75 percent of Republicans support getting the federal government out of this completely and letting states decide.

So, if you want a bill that is not politically perilous, if you want a bill that can reach across the aisle, if you want a bill that can pass the Senate, that they’ll be motivated to bring up in the Senate, then please vote for my amendment, which leaves most of the bill intact. It merely strikes the taxing and the new crimes and the new subsidies that the program creates.

The subsidies Massie mentions include US government-provided subsides in support of marijuana businesses and US government-provided subsidies that are race-based. Such subsidies are anathema for many Republicans in the House. The subsidies have been part of the MORE Act since it was first introduced in 2019, and they continue to be a major reason why the House Democratic leadership’s use of the bill as the vehicle for legalization seems like a sure means to further delay legalization.

Immediately after Massie spoke in the Judiciary Committee in favor of his amendment, the amendment was ruled out of order, resulting in it receiving no vote. The committee then proceeded to approve the complete MORE Act filled with provisions that appear to guarantee that this so-called vehicle for marijuana legalization remains a partisan spectacle that further delays the ending of the US government’s war on marijuana.

Watch Massie’s speech in favor of his amendment here:

Massie is an Advisory Board member for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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