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The MORE Act Gets A December Vote, But Don't Expect Much Else For Now

November 11, 2020 12:22 pm
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The MORE Act Gets A December Vote, But Don't Expect Much Else For Now

After the five-state ballot initiative sweep, marijuana's momentum kipped up after receiving a minor gut check in September when the House of Representatives punted a vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act to the lame duck session.

The lingering questions over which party will control the Senate after the Georgia runoffs in January aren't likely to delay the planned vote.

On Nov. 9, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer confirmed that the MORE Act would get a December floor vote next month. An exact date was not provided.

Sources in political and cannabis circles do not expect their previous forecasts to change.
Related link: The MORE Act Won't Pass Congress, But Cannabis Insiders Say That's OK — For Now

Fate Of The MORE Act

Canna Advisors partner Jay Czarkowski told Benzinga that while a Democrat-held House vote appears imminent, the Republican-majority Senate is unlikely to take up the issue.

"The current Senate does very little substantive passing of legislation overall, and there is no indication that Mitch McConnell is going to break with that trend for cannabis," said Czarkowski.

McConnell, who backed hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill, is a staunch opponent of marijuana reform. And with Conservatives controlling the Senate, cannabis reform likely won't reach its full potential.

"Based on the election results thus far, it is looking more likely that the Republicans will continue to control the Senate during the next term," said Ian Stewart, co-chair of the national Cannabis & Hemp Law practice at Wilson Elser. "Under that scenario, broad federal legalization similar to the MORE Act or STATES Act is very unlikely."

Limited banking protections will likely pass instead, he added.

How The President Affects The MORE Act

The results of the ballot measures aren't likely to sway current President Donald Trump or President-elect Joe Biden from moving forward on federal legalization.

"Whether it is cannabis, universal healthcare, gun control, or anti-abortion measures, the federal government is emphatically out of lockstep with the desires of the American people," Czarkowski said, citing Biden's views on mandatory drug rehab.

That said, Biden's cabinet would include individuals who lean more progressive on the matter, pushing for action on the MORE Act, Czarkowski added.

Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris is a co-sponsor on the bill.

Cannapreneur Partners co-CEO Todd Sullivan expressed confidence in a Biden presidency, predicting a market rally. 

After all, stocks such as Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB) and Tilray (NASDAQ:TLRY) absolutely surged in the days that followed Election Day.

"[Biden] will surely support the MORE Act and sign a bill that comes from a Democratic-led initiative," Sullivan said.

In the event that Trump remains in office after contesting the results, he could sign a Republican-led bill if it reached his desk, despite his minimal interest in the subject so far, Czarkowski said.

"This cuts both ways, of course, in that he would likely sign it if it crossed his desk after being sent there by a Republican Senate," he added.

Related link: Opinion: Why The MORE Act (Which Would Legalize Marijuana Federally) Is Doomed
Still, until January's runoffs, cannabis advocates will have to wait-and-see, since neither Biden nor Trump support federal legalization.

"My main takeaway from the election results is that cannabis legalization remains a popular and bipartisan issue when voters are presented with the topic as a single-issue ballot question," said Stewart. "Broad cannabis reform at the federal level, however, remains elusive due to Republican control of the Senate and presidential candidates who are focused on other issues."