Last month, and much to the excitement of cannabis enthusiasts, The MORE Act passed in the House of Representatives. While this was not the first time the house passed such a bill, there was a renewed sense optimism, especially since the majority of Americans support some form of marijuana legalization.
In order for the MORE Act to continue on its way towards law, however, it has what appear to be insurmountable hurdles. The Act “will need to gain 60 votes in the evenly divided Senate before moving to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature, an outcome widely seen as unlikely given the lack of Republican support for the measure,” according to Reuters.
If Republicans do not support the MORE Act, which it looks likely they will not, what will this mean for those Republicans who are up for re-election in states where marijuana is an important issue? Furthermore, how are Republican senators and congresspersons still able to keep their seats when their voting seems to contradict the general consensus of the American people?
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One belief is that although many Republican lawmakers are voting “nay” to the MORE Act and other marijuana legislation, they are not doing so simply to adhere to the old and tired Republican “War on Drugs” platform.
“Every two years, you get a new crop of members from both parties, but certainly from the Republican Party, who don’t have to defend the drug war … and they don’t have to prop it up,” cannabis advocate and former Maryland GOP state delegate Don Murphy told Politico. He says that instead, they are able to vote with their conscience. This also means, however, that these congress members and senators are able to use a long list of new reasons as to why they vote against marijuana legalization.
Take the recent passing of the MORE Act in congress. When it came time for deliberations of the bill, “most Republicans who took to the podium to voice their opposition against the bill said there are more important crises Congress should be addressing, from the invasion of Ukraine to rising gas prices to inflation,” according to Forbes. While these issues stated by Republicans are certainly major issues, these comments can also be seen as political side-stepping.
Another important distinction is that although the majority of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization, there are many regions and demographics who are much more conservative than normal and strongly oppose marijuana legalization. These conservatives, while in the minority of the population, are very well-represented in congress and the senate, often because “politically engaged Republicans are far more likely to be conservative than politically less engaged Republicans. This means that they are likely overrepresented in Congress compared with the Republican electorate at large,” according to CNN.
Republican-backed marijuana legislation is another angle some less-conservative Republicans are taking to avoid backlash, but also to avoid signing on to the MORE Act. The States Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), is one current popular example of this.
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Republican support in the senate looks murky at best. With a narrow majority and tensions between parties at alarming high levels, it is difficult to have hope for any type of groundbreaking legislation. Still, not all hope is lost. “A push for the MORE Act could still be seriously considered by the Senate, particularly since the MORE Act offers more compromising provisions,” according to The National Law Review.
The MORE Act becoming law in 2022 is more of a fantasy than reality, and Republicans seem to be succeeding in blocking this bill without receiving much flack. Still, when you look at all the new legalization bills and growing public displays of support from both sides of the aisle, you can’t help but feel that a solution is so close you can almost smell it.