September 17, 2020

House Dems punt marijuana legalization vote into November, after election

A potentially historic vote on marijuana legalization, via the MORE Act, has been put off until after November’s general election. The vote had been originally scheduled for the week of Sept. 21.

It’s widely believed that the decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was made in deference to Democratic House members running for re-election in moderate districts. Republican leaders have recently been playing up the idea that Democrats were more interested in legalizing marijuana than in passing the latest round of COVID-19 relief legislation.

Natalie Fertig and Paul Demko, writing for Politico last week, wrote about the risk the vote carried:

“It’s landing in the midst of a stalemate between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House over a new coronavirus aid bill, raising worries about the optics of focusing on marijuana during a pandemic. Republicans mocked Democrats at the Republican National Convention for declaring cannabis businesses essential enough to remain open during the early days of the pandemic, and repeatedly ridiculed them for including a provision to give banks legal cover for serving the marijuana industry in their most recent coronavirus relief bill.”

Even though two-thirds of Americans believe it’s time to legalize cannabis for all adults, that support isn’t evenly spread across all Congressional districts. In more moderate districts, some Democrats were feeling anxious about how the optics of a cannabis legalization vote could play with their constituents.

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Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

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