House Democrats Preparing to Pass Marijuana Legalization with Very Little Republican Support

During a United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing earlier this month that appeared to signal the beginning of a move in the House to approve countrywide marijuana legalization legislation, Republican House member, and longtime proponent of rolling back marijuana prohibition, Tom McClintock (R-CA) warned that Democratic members’ apparent focus on weaving race-based policies and new government meddling into legalization legislation could sink support from Republicans.

Now it looks like House Democrats are moving forward with that plan against which McClintock warned. On Tuesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over marijuana legalization, introduced legalization legislation that includes race-based provisions tied together with marijuana business subsidies that just about ensure the bill will have little support from Republican House members.

Nadler’s bill titled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (the MORE Act) would require, should it become law, that the “Administrator of the Small Business Administration shall establish and carry out a program, to be known as the ’Cannabis Opportunity Program’ to provide any eligible State or locality funds to make loans under section 7(m) of the Small Business Act (15 16 U.S.C. 363(m)) to assist small business concerns owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, as defined in section 19 8(d)(3)(C) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 20 637(d)(3)(C)) that operate in the cannabis industry.” This is funded through a national marijuana sales tax established by the bill.

In June of last year, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced in the Senate the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (reintroduced at S 1552 in this Congress) that, in addition to significantly rolling back marijuana prohibition, includes a very similar provision as does the new House bill. In Schumer’s bill the fund created is called the Marijuana Opportunity Trust Fund. Yet, despite the different name, the Marijuana Opportunity Trust Fund, like the Cannabis Opportunity Program in Nadler’s bill, requires the Small Business Administration to assist small business concerns owned and controlled by women or by “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” as defined in 15 USC 637(d)(3)(C). As I wrote before in regard to the Schumer bill, that wording indicates the group to be provided special advantage by the new program “is presumed to include ‘Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, and other minorities.’” Examining the effect of the inclusion of this provision in Schumer’s bill on the potential of Republican senators to support the bill, I wrote the following:

In short, included in Schumer’s bill is a special race-and-sex-based subsidy for marijuana businesses. This provides clear reason for Republican senators — many of whom already are wary of supporting a significant marijuana prohibition roll-back — to not support the bill. First, race-and-sex-based government preferences tend not to be popular among Republican voters and politicians. Second, the provision converts the bill from legislation that just takes the small government step of eliminating marijuana-related legal restraints to legislation taking the big government approach of subsidizing marijuana businesses. A Republican Senator who cosponsors or votes for the bill would, in general, be endorsing a new government subsidy and, in particular, be helping fund marijuana businesses — something much different than merely tolerating their existence.

A year after Schumer first introduced his bill in the Senate, the seven cosponsors of the bill are all Democrats, plus independent Bernie Sanders who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Meanwhile, the version of Schumer’s bill in the House (HR 2843), introduced by a Democratic House member in May, has only Democratic cosponsors — 37 in all.

Expect something similar to occur with support for Nadler’s new bill. In fact, it is off to a similar start. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), who introduced the Senate version of Nadler’s bill, lists in a Tuesday press release the original cosponsors of the new bill in the Senate and House. Original cosponsor numbers come in at four senators and 27 representatives. The only Republican among them is House member Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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