Democrats Scuttle Marijuana Decriminalization Vote Over Fears of Not Being Deferential Enough to Cop Lobbyists

A planned House vote on a bill to decriminalize the possession of marijuana was canceled on Thursday under pressure from law enforcement lobbyists and other pro-prohibition special interests.

The expected floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would have been the biggest accomplishment yet for cannabis reformers, but the effort has been postponed until after Election Day, Politico reports. Democrats have gotten weak-kneed about a bill that they once saw as a major criminal justice reform.

Indeed, it would have been. The MORE Act, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D–N.Y.), would remove cannabis from the schedules of the Controlled Substances Act and make that change retroactive, effectively expunging any federal marijuana offenses and convictions. The bill also orders federal courts to lift all sentences for people currently locked up due to a marijuana conviction.

As Reason‘s Jacob Sullum explained when the bill was introduced last year, the MORE Act was in many ways superior to other marijuana legislation, because it “completely deschedules marijuana rather than moving it to a lower schedule or making exceptions to the ban for state-legal conduct, and it seeks to lift the burdens that prohibition has imposed on people caught growing, distributing, or possessing cannabis, a vital project that too often has been treated as an afterthought.”

This year, the bill had collected more than 100 co-sponsorships in the House—it even had support from three Republicans—and appeared on track to pass the lower chamber. Even though the bill was expected to die in the Senate, that House vote would have been historic.

Unfortunately, cop lobbyists seem to have convinced House Democratic leaders that it would also be a liability. A coalition of law enforcement special interests and other proponents of the drug war sent a letter to congressional leaders last week warning about the potential dangers associated with legalizing and “commercializing” marijuana.

That, combined with vague fears about how Republicans might weaponize the legalization vote for negative ads in swing districts, was apparently enough to convince Democrats to scuttle the vote.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself.

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