The U.S. Capitol building. | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Updated: 08/28/2020 06:12 PM EDT

The House will vote on legalizing marijuana next month.

States would still have to vote to legalize the drug. Marijuana is already legal in 11 states.

The MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and erase some cannabis criminal records. The vote will come during the September work period, according to an email Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) office that was sent to members Friday.

The email also asked members to indicate if they would support the MORE Act by Sept. 3.

Why is this important? Neither chamber of Congress has ever voted on removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

“A floor vote on the bill would be the greatest federal cannabis reform accomplishment in over 50 years,” said Randal Meyer of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce.

What’s the background? Cannabis is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which was signed into law in 1970. Drugs that are classified as Schedule I are defined as having a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit. Removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act would mean it is no longer illegal at the federal level, but it would not immediately legalize its sale in every state. State and federal agencies would still need to create rules and regulations for the production, marketing and sale of cannabis products, and some states may not allow sales even if the federal ban was removed.

This bill, H.R. 3884 (116), was introduced by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) last fall and passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 24-10 in November. Reps Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.) were the only Republicans on the committee to vote for the bill.

“Of course I intend to vote yes on the bill,” McClintock said on Friday. “With respect to timing, I do find it ironic that the only small businesses the Democrats seem to be worried about is cannabis shops, but I would support this bill whenever it is brought to a vote.”

Negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House on a new coronavirus relief bill have gone nowhere in recent weeks.

The MORE Act is not the only bill that would remove cannabis from the CSA, but because it expunges records and creates funding for grants to benefit people who have been negatively impacted by criminal enforcement, this bill has garnered the most support from Democrat leadership and legalization advocates.

“As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime champion of marijuana legalization.

Does this mean cannabis will be legal? No, the odds of this bill passing in the Senate are still very slim, given the opposition of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During this week’s Republicans National Convention, speakers criticized Democrats for purportedly prioritizing marijuana sales during the pandemic over more important services like health care and religious gatherings.

Last November, Nadler dismissed concerns about the Senate’s potential inaction. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to say the Senate won’t take this bill so we shouldn’t pass this bill,” Nadler said. “To do [so] is to say the Senate rules the roost and the House doesn’t matter.”

The bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.,) the Democratic nominee for vice president.

[Read More…]