Moderate Democrats facing tough reelection battles in November and fearing a voter backlash have forced the leadership of the United States House of Representatives to postpone a vote on legalizing marijuana.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, would legalize the drug federally and expunge some criminal records while leaving the decision on the sale of the psychoactive plant to the states.
The MORE Act raises basic questions about the role of government, its obligation to protect citizens from potential harm and the legal problems created by a marijuana arrest for what is increasingly seen as a matter of personal choice outside the purview of the law.
Proponents of legalization say current federal law treating marijuana as a controlled substance equal to cocaine or heroin is archaic and is comparable to Prohibition early last century.
Marijuana legalization supporters argue that current laws divert police from more important tasks and needlessly criminalize the actions of recreational users.
On Nov 3 voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota will have a say on legalizing marijuana. In Mississippi, voters will decide whether to permit medical use of marijuana while keeping recreational consumption illegal.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and 11 states－Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Vermont－have legalized sale of the drug for recreational use.
“Passage of the MORE Act is essential in order to truly right the wrongs of federal marijuana criminalization,” said Paul Armentano, director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law.
The bill is unlikely to come up for a vote before the election.
Adopted and pending marijuana legalization laws exclude persons under 18. Minors are prohibited from buying tobacco and alcohol but teenagers have no trouble obtaining cigarettes and