Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the only Republican co-sponsor on the bill, was backed by GOP Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Denver Riggleman of Virginia, Don Young of Alaska and Tom McClintock of California.
“The MORE Act is flawed; it uses cannabis policy to do a great deal of social engineering to create new taxes and new programs and redistribution of assets,” Gaetz said, speaking from the House floor Friday after Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, yielded his time.
“But I am here as the only Republican co-sponsor of the MORE Act, and I’m voting for it because the federal government has lied to the people of this country about marijuana for a generation.”
“We have seen a generation, particularly of Black and Brown youth, locked up for offenses that should not have resulted in any incarceration whatsoever. I’m also deeply troubled that the current policy, the federal government inhibits research into cannabis, research that could unlock cures and help people live better lives,” he added, hitting a talking point Democrats have been addressing for years.
“My Republican colleagues today will make a number of arguments against this bill, but those arguments are overwhelmingly losing with the American people.”
A recent Gallup poll found 68 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana – a 2% increase from last year and an all-time high.
The recent general election also saw two staunchly conservative states, Mississippi and South Dakota, join the other 34 states in legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.
South Dakota along with Arizona, New Jersey and Montana passed legislation that permits possession of marijuana for recreational use – meaning now 15 states allow such possession.
But the GOP-controlled Senate does not appear to be heeding the American people or their fellow Republican legislators.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., condemned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for allowing the MORE Act to be on last week’s docket, when a coronavirus relief bill has not yet been agreed to.
“The House of Representatives is spending this week on pressing issues like marijuana,” McConnell said from the Senate floor Thursday. “You know, serious, important legislation benefiting the national crisis.”
Though the MORE Act hitting the House floor for a vote was not so surprising, since it first appeared on the docket in September.
Not wanting to frustrate voters in passing a bill that decriminalizes marijuana when a COVID stimulus package could not be agreed on by Congress, Democrats pushed the bill back, promising to vote on it before the year’s end.
“Speaker Pelosi’s House decides to ‘puff, puff, pass’ on job-saving PPP and COVID relief. Senate Republicans are focused on getting Americans’ urgently needed pandemic relief and economic assistance,” the Senate Republican Communications Center said on twitter. “But House Democrats are focused on legalizing marijuana.”
“Rent is due today, and Nancy Pelosi & Chuck Schumer are focused on legalizing marijuana and outlawing the Tiger King,” Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said.
Republicans currently have 50 Senate seats, while Democrats have 48, including two independent senators who caucus with Democrats. But if the GOP candidates lose in the runoff, Democrats likely wil pass the MORE Act in the Senate.
Even if the GOP only lose one Senate seat, only one Republican senator would need to cross party lines to pass the bill – a situation that the Friday House vote showed is a possibility.