(This story has been updated with a comment from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.)
A bill to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and thereby legalize the plant federally won’t be voted on by the U.S. House next week as planned or before the Nov. 3 election.
“House Dems have punted a vote on a marijuana legalization bill to the lame duck (session),” tweeted Sarah Ferris, a congressional reporter for Politico.
She wrote that “many moderates were furious that the House would vote on weed before taking up a COVID bill, though other Dems called it a social justice imperative.”
According to Politico, Congress will return after the election for a lame duck session, and lawmakers and aides have said a vote will occur on the legislation then.
In a statement, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer confirmed such a timetable, saying: “The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform, and we are committed to bringing it to the Floor for a vote before the end of the year.
“Right now, the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The MORE Act is a comprehensive measure that would have massive business implications. It also seeks to address social justice issues.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the MORE Act in a historic vote last November. But passage by the full House would be a milestone for marijuana reform.
Industry insiders said House passage of the bill would set the stage for a similar measure to pass the Senate as soon as next year – if the Senate flips to Democrats in November.
As of Thursday, the MORE Act had 111 co-sponsors in the House, up from 87 since Hoyer’s email in late August, but still just one Republican, Matt Gaetz of Florida.
The measure calls for a 5% federal tax on marijuana products that would be directed to programs that would benefit individuals and communities most impacted by the war on drugs.
Republican leadership had criticized the move to vote on the legislation as soon as it was announced in late August.
Michele Perez Exner, communications director for House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, was especially sharp in a tweet: “In the midst of a pandemic associated with a respiratory tract infection, this is what Dem leaders have decided to make their priority.”
Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]