Congress Delays Vote on MORE Act: Why this is a Major Blow to my Community

Published by Cierra Ward on

Congress Delays Vote on MORE Act: Why this is a Major Blow to my Community

The first time I heard about the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, I could not believe it was real.

The MORE Act is a bill introduced to Congress in 2019 by democratic vice president nominee Kamala Harris, then a California senator. The aim of the bill is to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and also allow each state to set their own regulations on the substance. Additionally, the bill will remove convictions for various federal offenses involving cannabis while adding a 5% tax on it. The money from the tax, in turn, will be used to fix communities negatively affected by the War on Drugs.

The House planned to vote on this act on September 21. However, looking at the agenda of bills to vote on for that date, the MORE Act was not included.

Courtesy of BNX Global.

Why would they just take it off the agenda like that? 

The House was sneaky about it too. They did not announce its removal from the agenda, nor bothered with a public explanation.

They thought we were just going to forget about it, which… is kind of messed up.

Well, allegedly House majority leader Steny Hoyer told reporters during a [ironically private] press conference call that the House needed to focus on COVID-19 related bills.

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Now, it may make sense for them to delay the vote to focus on more pressing issues, but is Congress truly focusing on Coronavirus legislation?

After the CARES Act unemployment aid ended in July, Congress has done nothing to remedy the situation. The only coronavirus-related aid we have seen was the Lost Wages Assistance program, done by the President through an executive memorandum, which provided an extra $300 a week on top of regular unemployment. For some states, this legislation ended the first week of September.

So again, Congress has done literally nothing since March.

For them to say that Coronavirus aid is more important than considering the MORE act (which, don’t get me wrong, is definitely important), is infuriating now that we’re in October and there is no new bill, no new stimulus check, no nothing.

Millions of people are still unemployed. By the grace of God, after being unemployed for six months I got a job, but there are so many people who weren’t as lucky as me. It angers me and saddens me deeply.

The House, for months, has said they are working on an updated version of the HERO’S Act as well as another $1,200 stimulus check – but the country has yet to see any progress on either. What makes things worse is that Congress is on a break until October 19 and even then, we still aren’t sure of when the vote on the MORE Act will occur.

This vote should have happened a long time ago.

I don’t mean they should have voted on the bill as soon as it was introduced. Marijuana should have never been criminalized in the first place. When some states started to legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use back in 2012, it should have been removed as a Schedule I substance. Weed is definitely NOT on the same level as heroine, LSD or ecstasy.

For many years in the history of the United States, marijuana legislation has been used as a part of systemic racism against people of color, especially Black and Latinx people. Congress delaying the vote is just another major blow to these communities. 

Thousands of Black and Latinx people are sitting in prison on marijuana trafficking and distribution charges, currently serving time for the selling and trafficking of cannabis while [predominantly] white dispensary owners are enjoying the profit from selling the same exact thing

Dispensaries are popping up all over the U.S. This is insane!

In April, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report, finding Black people were 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. The same trend was true even in states that decriminalized marijuana.

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Had the MORE Act been voted on as planned, we could’ve been closer to finally addressing unjust regulations of people of color. Of course, the Senate has to approve the bill next. Then the President, which may make the bill a little more difficult to push through.

Regardless, it is a necessary step towards the racial equality that my community deserves.

Several cities and states like here in Atlanta, Georgia, have already passed their own versions of a “marijuana decriminalization” law. Atlanta’s decriminalization law made the “possession of less than an ounce of weed a ticketable offense within city limits.” The key word here (or really, letters) is “ticketable.”

Government officials fail to make clear that it is at police officers’ discretion as to whether or not they will arrest or ticket the offender.

Changing marijuana policy on a local level is not enough.

In order for a real change to be made, we have to be the ones to initiate it. This means writing to our local representatives, voting in ALL elections (not just the presidential) and most importantly, sharing this article to make it known: Congress should stop ignoring the #MOREAct.

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Cierra Ward

Cierra Ward

Cierra Ward is a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida with her bachelor’s in Electronic Journalism. She is originally from Jacksonville, Florida, but plans to travel the whole world before she settles somewhere. Besides telling unique stories of people, her passion is dance, which she has participated in since she was three years old. An interesting fact about Ward is she has a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

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