On April 1, 2022, H.R.3617 The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (the MORE Act), passed the U.S. House of Representatives. On April 4, 2022, the U.S. Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Finance, which is chaired by Ron Wyden (D: OR). Senator Wyden is one of the sponsors of another piece of cannabis legislation, alongside Senators Cory Booker and Chuck Schumer. Below are a few important things to note about whether or not a cannabis decriminalization bill is likely to pass the Senate, and why criminal justice experts believe it is so important to pass now.
Will the U.S. become the Next Nation to Decriminalize Cannabis?
Is the bill likely to pass the Senate? The MORE Act passed the House largely on partisan lines. Three Republicans voted yes, and two Democrats voted no. Most political pundits believe that the act is destined to fail in the Senate. There it would require all of the Democrats voting “Aye,” plus at least 10 Republicans, for a total of 60 votes. Without that support, it is likely to fall under a filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to introduce legislation that he, Cory Booker and Ron Wyden drafted “very soon.” They are currently seeking comments from senators on their draft legislation. Cannabis legislation is likely to be hotly debated over the next few weeks, as Senate Majority Leader Schumer seeks to prioritize cannabis legalization.
40% of U.S. Drug Arrests in 2018
According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of the U.S. drug arrests in 2018 were marijuana-related, mostly for possession. This is down from 52% of all drug arrests in 2010, largely due to the number of states that have decriminalized cannabis. The ACLU notes that “despite roughly equal usage rates, blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.”
Americans Favor Legalization of Marijuana
According to a Gallup Poll conducted in November of 2021, 68% of U.S. adults support legalizing marijuana. That’s way up from only slightly more than half in favor of legalization from a 2013 survey, and about 1/3 from 2001.
Which Companies Win if the U.S. Legalizes Marijuana?
Tilray is in an excellent position, not only with its many popular brands like Sweetwater Brewing, but also with its stake in MedMen, a retailer with a big footprint in California. There are a few other brands that could do well, including HEXO (through their Molson Coors JV brand Truss CBD USA). Check out my recent blog on cannabis for additional information. It’s worth repeating that decriminalization has many hurdles in The U.S. Senate that might trip up the legislation.
Meanwhile, Luxembourg is set to become the first European country to legalize weed. (The Netherlands has a “liberal” policy.) Germany has also promised to make recreational marijuana legal. Analysts believe the political process for legalization in Germany is at least a year out.
Cannabis decriminalization is split on party lines in the U.S., which makes it vulnerable to a filibuster. Legislation would need to pass with 60 votes, rather than just a simple majority. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Booker and Wyden have made cannabis decriminalization a priority, and are trying to secure the votes for their bill. Americans are behind them. However, with 50 G.O.P. Senators (half of the Senate), there will need to be bipartisan support – something that has kept pot legalization a pipe dream in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Full Disclosure: I own shares in a few cannabis companies, including Tilray and HEXO.
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Natalie Wynne Pace is an Advocate for Sustainability, Financial Literacy & Women's Empowerment. Natalie is the bestselling author of The Power of 8 Billion: It's Up to Us and is the co-creator of the Earth Gratitude Project. She has been ranked as a No. 1 stock picker, above over 835 A-list pundits, by an independent tracking agency (TipsTraders). Her book The ABCs of Money remained at or near the #1 Investing Basics e-book on Amazon for over 3 years (in its vertical), with over 120,000 downloads and a mean 5-star ranking. The 5th edition of The ABCs of Money was released on September 17, 2021.
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Natalie Pace is the co-creator of the Earth Gratitude Project and the author of The Power of 8 Billion: It's Up to Us, The ABCs of Money, The ABCs of Money for College, The Gratitude Game and Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is. She is a repeat guest & speaker on national news shows and stages. She has been ranked the No. 1 stock picker, above over 830 A-list pundits, by an independent tracking agency, and has been saving homes and nest eggs since 1999.