Marijuana Moment is a wire service assembled by Tom Angell, a marijuana legalization activist and journalist covering marijuana reform nationwide. The views expressed by Angell or Marijuana Moment are neither endorsed by the Globe nor do they reflect the Globe’s views on any subject area.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Tuesday that he’s optimistic about the prospects for getting his comprehensive marijuana legalization bill out of committee and onto the floor by the end of this Congress.
During a press conference with lawmakers and advocates, Chairman Jerrold Nadler also said that part of the reason he expects floor time is because he’s actively communicating with other committee chairs, requesting that they waive jurisdiction of the reform legislation to expedite its progress.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, introduced by Nadler, would federally deschedule cannabis and provide for expungements and reinvestments in communities most impacted by the war on drugs. The panel confirmed that members will mark up the legislation on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
The chairman — as well as Representatives Barbara Lee, Earl Blumenauer, Nydia Velázquez, Steve Cohen, Pramila Jayapal, and the executive directors of the Drug Policy Alliance and Law Enforcement Action Partnership — spoke at the event.
While the MORE Act has been referred to seven additional committees, Nadler said his panel is “carrying on conversations” about getting other panels to waive jurisdiction.
“I don’t anticipate that to be a big problem,” he said. “We are looking forward to moving this to the floor at an appropriate time when we’ve done some more educational work and have the votes.”
“For too long, our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in the past,” said Lee, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, adding that this bill is “rooted in equality, justice, and fairness.”
Blumenauer said the country has “seen more progress is the last 40 months than we’ve seen in the last 40 years” when it comes to marijuana policy.
“We shouldn’t settle any longer for incremental change,” he said. “We must commit to the restorative justice that’s in this.”
“This is the Congress that can end the failed prohibition of cannabis.”
Nadler said he expects the bill to clear his panel with bipartisan support, predicting that more Republican members will sign onto the legislation as it advances.
To that end, Representative Matt Gaetz, who is so far the lone GOP cosponsor of the MORE Act, said that he’s “pleased to see historic steps being taken in the Judiciary Committee on the issue of cannabis.”
“The MORE Act is not perfect, but it advances the discussion on cannabis reform and allows the Congress to take much-needed action on this important issue,” said the congressman, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. “I look forward to participating in the discussion this week.”
Nadler left open the possibility that lawmakers could make compromises on the legislation later down the road, but he added that he doesn’t believe it will have to come to that, and that it would be a mistake to scale down the legislation at this early stage of the process.
“This will remove a stain on people’s record but really a stain on the United States of America,” Cohen said. He also joked that when Blumenauer described the bill as the “best piece of cannabis legislation” he’s seen, another way of putting it is that the MORE Act is the “Acapulco Gold of marijuana legislation,” referencing a variety of cannabis popular in the 1960s.
Wednesday’s vote will be one of the most highly anticipated congressional developments in the cannabis reform movement, with members not just debating the end of federal prohibition — which happened in a House subcommittee in July — but actually voting on a bill that would accomplish that, and more.