by KRM Research Staff
The current Democratic-controlled Congress is quite naturally hoping to pass desired legislation before the November elections, when a Republican takeover of either or both chambers is a possibility. That’s likely why the House once again has passed the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement) Act that would remove cannabis from the list of federally-controlled substances.
The nearly party-line vote (220-204) on April 1st is the reason that cannabis stocks recentlhy soared, reflecting the hope that the trinity of federal legalization, social justice reforms and financial relief would all come to pass. However, there are still hurdles to be surmounted.
Even though Congress has shown bipartisan support for legalization, the MORE Act still has to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Biden. And once again, this is uncertain. In the Senate, Majority Leader Charles Schumer would prefer to base legalization on his own similar bill, the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA), which has not yet come up for a vote — so the question becomes whose bill will be the one to make it to Biden’s desk.
Moreover, it’s by no means certain that President Biden will sign the legislation. Last month, in a move that was not widely reported, the Biden Administration moved to prohibit any prospective employee from holding stock in a cannabis company, with the explanation that this would reflect “questionable judgment.” Coming on the heels of the Administration’s previous firings of employees who had been identified as cannabis users, it is not a good sign whether the former drug warrior President has changed his attitude.
Meanwhile in light of this legalization initiative, coupled with the new focus on Ukraine, the cannabis industry’s push to get the SAFE Banking Act passed before the midterms has been thwarted. In a recent interview, Schumer said that “if we let this bill out, it will make it much harder and take longer to pass comprehensive reform.” There is still one additional standalone bill making its way through Congress to keep in mind — the EQUAL Act (Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law). Supported by many law enforcement organizations and justice reform groups, the bill would eliminate the federal disparity in prison sentences between cheaper crack cocaine — used primarily by lower-income people —and pricier powder cocaine which has traditionally been preferred by middle- and upper-income users. The bill was passed in the House last fall and is yet to make it onto the Senate floor; it is likely that the final version of the MORE Act that leaves the Senate would also encompass this sentencing disparity.