By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
October 1. 2020
Only one day after Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, sent a letter to the North Carolina Congressional delegation, urging them to oppose The MORE Act, House members cancelled a vote on the measure.
Creech said that although he thinks the letter played a part in the Democratic leadership’s decision not to vote on the bill, there was a coalition of social justice, drug prevention, recovery, family, and faith organizations, which sent a joint letter to the members of Congress on the same day the Christian Action League sent its letter.
The MORE Act would have not only decriminalized marijuana on the federal level, it would have also fully legalized and commercialized the drug.
“This may have been our biggest victory all year,” said Creech. “The League most often keeps its focus on the state level, but we did our part by contacting the North Carolina delegation, both Republican and Democrat, and that’s the why we share in the defeat of this egregious proposal on the national level.”
According to various news reports, Democrats had second thoughts about voting on marijuana legalization during tough re-election contests. Moreover, moderate Democrats said it was more important to first pass COVID 19 relief. These concerns won over party leaders.
In a statement on its website, Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration, said:
“Almost 200,000 Americans have lost their lives in the COVID 19 pandemic, and countless others are barely making ends meet as a result of the economic fallout. That anyone in Congress could fathom holding so much as a meeting on marijuana legalization at this time is beyond comprehension.”
However, USA Today reported proponents for marijuana legalization were frustrated with the decision not to take up the measure.
In a statement released to the press, Maritza Perez, director of the office of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that advocates for the decriminalization of drugs, said not voting on the bill means “justice delayed for millions of Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low income individuals disproportionately impacted by our country’s racist marijuana laws. We cannot continue to force these communities to wait for a ‘politically convenient’ moment while they continue to be robbed of employment opportunities, housing, education, other government programs, and even their children or immigration status.”
But Sabet counters that “encouraging marijuana use in disadvantaged communities is a social injustice. In states that have expanded this industry, pot shops are disproportionately located in communities of color and low income. Overall, less than two percent of the marijuana industry is owned by minorities from any community. Those most harmed by previous drug laws are not the ones benefited by commercialization.”
Sabet added that The MORE Act “would only enrich the wealthy, white investors from Big Tobacco, alcohol conglomerates, and Big Pharma.”
Creech says that he has always been concerned about the way marijuana legalization would negatively impact North Carolina because of its long association with the tobacco industry.
“I wrote in the letter that we sent to our North Carolina congressional members that as a boy I worked in the tobacco fields. Tobacco has always been a part of our state’s heritage. Nevertheless, through the years it has become abundantly apparent that tobacco use is a serious health hazard, killing as many as a half-million people every year. So we joined other health organizations supporting federal legislation which passed and gave the FDA authority to regulate tobacco. Later we advocated for smoke-free legislation on the state level, banning smoking in certain places to protect people from second hand smoke. That wasn’t easy in a state where tobacco has always been king, but it was the right thing to do.” said Creech.
“Now, look a bit into the future and ask yourself, do we want the influence of Big Tobacco in this state to become the influence of Big Cannabis?” asked Creech. “That’s what will happen if marijuana is legalized. The use of marijuana has considerable implications for the tobacco industry in terms of an alternative product line during a time when tobacco products are not as socially acceptable and somewhat on the decline.”
Democratic House members have said they will take up The MORE Act after Election Day. However, the Republican-controlled Senate has indicated they have no compelling interest to vote on the initiative.
Kamala Harris, the vice-presidential candidate on the ticket with presidential candidate Joe Biden, is a primary sponsor of The MORE Act.