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Republicans Attack Democrats Over MORE Act, citing COVID Relief
The House GOP has posted a blog entitled “Democrats Prioritize Legalizing Marijuana Instead Of Providing COVID Relief For The American People” which attacks the party over a planned vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, which removes cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, among other things.
The post notes that “Democrats previously intended to vote on this bill in September, but pulled the legislation from the floor because they did not want to have to answer questions at home – before an election – about why they were spending their time on something like this instead of making a bipartisan deal to provide critical COVID relief.”
Negotiations to provide additional relief in the form of stimulus checks to the American people dealing with COVID have been stalled over Democrats’ refusal to accede to Republican demands for reducing the amount paid to people and increase benefits for wealthy corporations.
Senators Sanders & Warren Push Back Against GOP Marijuana Attacks
In separate published op-eds in the Washington Post and USA Today, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren rejected attacks from the GOP over advancing marijuana law reform, pointing to the results of the 2020 election in numerous states.
“All over America, voters approved progressive policies to improve the lives of millions of people,” Sanders wrote. “Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota voted to move away from the ‘war on drugs’ and approved legalizing marijuana.”
“Progressive ballot initiatives won across the country,” Warren wrote. “Multiple states—red and blue—passed ballot measures to legalize marijuana.”
In fact, marijuana legalization in New Jersey and Arizona received more votes than President-elect Biden in winning those states, while legalization in Montana and medical marijuana in South Dakota and Mississippi received more votes than President Trump’s winning vote total in those states.
Virginia Leaders Sanguine on Legalization’s Chances in the Legislature
With control over all three branches of state government, Democratic leaders in Virginia are confident they can shepherd marijuana legalization through the legislature and onto the governor’s desk in 2021.
“It’s high time we actually make this change and I think other people have seen that as well,” said Del. Mike Mullen, D-Newport News, who chairs the House’s criminal law subcommittee and says he believes there are enough votes in the chamber to end prohibition of the drug. “I can tell you I think it will pass.”
House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, agreed with Mullin that a legalization bill could clear the chamber, saying, “I think it has a good chance.”
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, has said in the past that while he backed decriminalization, he wasn’t certain he would support legalization. However, Saslaw put the odds of passage at “slightly better than 50-50.”
As for Gov. Ralph Northam’s thoughts on legalization, his chief of staff Clark Mercer said, “He is certainly open to it,” but wants to know more about the issues of youth use and industry regulation.
New Jersey Legalization Stalls Over Revenue Allocation
Despite the voters’ approval by a two-to-one margin of a marijuana legalization referendum last week, lawmakers in New Jersey House and Senate Committees pulling bills on legalization due to conflicts over revenue allocation.
In the Assembly, Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) wants to add a licensing fee for marijuana users to raise revenue in addition to marijuana taxes. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) and lead sponsor Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D) quickly pushed back, saying in a joint statement that the state “should not impose any additional taxes that will put the cost of legally purchasing marijuana out of reach for the communities that have been impacted the most.” They also asserted that increasing the tax rate would hurt efforts to eliminate the illicit market.
Civil rights activists have also criticized the bills for not setting a high enough tax rate to repatriate profits into programs to help communities most ravaged by prohibition and for their lack of home grow provisions.
State Cannabis Regulators Form Association to Coordinate Efforts
Regulators from nineteen states who administer legal recreational or medical marijuana programs have formed an industry group to coordinate their efforts nationwide.
“The Cannabis Regulators Association will provide a much needed forum for regulators to engage with each other to identify and develop best practices, create model policies that safeguard public health and safety, and promote regulatory certainty for industry participants,” Norman Birenbaum, CANNRA’s inaugural president, said in a press release.
As of now, CANNRA members include regulators from 19 states: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington state. More are expected to join soon.