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Empty Rhetoric and Emptier Promises


Thoughts on The MORE Act and How the GOP Let Us Down

On Friday, December 4th, 2020, Congress made history when the House of Representatives approved a bill that would remove cannabis from the CSA and establish a national regulatory framework for the plant’s sale and consumption. It was a day of celebration across the counter-cultural biosphere. Finally, the oppressive and unjust regime of Reefer Madness-era prohibition would crumble before our eyes like the Berlin Wall. We had arrived. 

Except we really hadn’t. Granted, thanks to that historic vote, we’re closer than we’ve ever been. But the bill still has to pass the Senate, where so long as Mitch McConnel is in control, it will be dead on arrival. 

As I write these words, it’s still December of 2020. But by the time this article is affixed to a page between your fingers, it will be February of 2021. I have no crystal ball at my disposal, so I can’t say what will happen in the coming months. It’s possible and even probable that if Democrats emerge victorious in the Georgia runoffs in January, the MORE Act may have already become law.  It’s a glorious thought.

Even in that case, however, the musings herein are in no way moot. It’s important that we collectively make a note of who is on our side and who is still bent on our incarceration so we can adjust our partisan alignments in the future. 

The fact is, after years of paying increasing lip service to the cause of legalization, the GOP let us down. In the House, only five Republicans gave a “yes” vote on the bill, and as already mentioned, McConnel has vowed to kill it when it reaches the Senate. Adding insult to injury was the absurd and fallacious rhetoric they spewed to justify their opposition, which for posterity’s sake, we will now address. Following are the three most prevalent arguments against the MORE Act, as provided by the GOP.  Bite down on some leather. 

It’s Just More Taxes and Big Government

This argument came in many forms, but it was most poignantly and eloquently articulated by Congressman Thomas Massie (R – Kentucky), who tweeted: 

I wish @SpeakerPelosi was serious about repealing the federal prohibition on marijuana. I could cross the aisle to vote on it if it weren’t being used as a vehicle to pass new taxes and spending.

Give us a clean Bill or at least allow amendments to be heard.

It’s hard to wrap your head around the logic here. Massie, who prior to the Trump era was a tireless advocate for libertarian ideals, is apparently so stalwart in his opposition to taxes that it supersedes his opposition to the drug war. In Massie’s world, the demonstrably unjust and unnecessary criminalization of a provably benign plant, which has led to a militarized police force and exploding prison population, is somehow preferable to consumers paying a whole five cents on the dollar for said plant in a legal marketplace. 

The logic here – or lack thereof – is so skewed and backward that it’s difficult to even know where to start.  It’s the kind of abject stupidity that leads a rational person to begin irrationally sputtering out exasperated sentence fragments, as if it was a glitch in the cerebral software causing system failure. 

Admittedly, I’ve never been to prison, but I have watched plenty of Oz. I’ve also spent my entire life residing in jurisdictions in which sales taxes have been required for consumer purchases. Interestingly enough, while shelling out that extra nickel or dime did often feel like the chafing shackles of tyranny dragging me down the slippery slope toward socialism, not once did I ever think to myself, “You know, I’d rather just go to prison.”  

For an even more poignant illustration of the absurdity of this thought process, one needs look no further than Massie’s own home state of Kentucky, where an excise tax of $1.92 per gallon is levied on their world-famous bourbon distilleries. If Massie’s logic about the MORE Act holds water, his state should save its citizens from the tyranny of taxation by reinstating 1920’s era prohibition. Try that one on for size, Massie; shove those treasured Kentucky businesses back to into the black market and see how that pans out for you next election cycle. 

We’re in a Pandemic! Get Your Priorities Straight!

This is the one echoed most universally within the GOP, but it’s probably best and most concisely expressed by a tweet from Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler:

Rent is due today, and Nancy Pelosi & Chuck Schumer are focused on legalizing marijuana and outlawing the Tiger King. 

Spare us the gaslighting.

Suddenly, after dragging their feet on any covid-related action whatsoever for months, Republicans have now suddenly become the crusaders for working class pandemic relief. 

It’s amazing. Democrats have been trying everything in the book to get the GOP to prioritize a relief package since early summer. Lo and behold, all they had to do that whole time was threaten to legalize a plant.  

Republicans, in the words of one particularly famous pirate, “You truly have a dizzying intellect.” 

But let’s set all that aside and pretend they were serious for a minute. Even within this far-fetched scenario, the logic is about as grounded as a helium-filled balloon in the hands of toddler who just got into a jar of Vaseline. 

There are 435 members in the House of Representatives. By GOP logic, 435 public servants, each of whom are furnished with a full staff or their own, just couldn’t be expected to vote on a bill that’s already been written AND put together a stimulus package in the same week. It’s an entirely new level of zero-sum bullshit.

Imagine if you could use their logic at your job. 

“Well, yeah, I know I was supposed to take inventory last week – and I TOTALLY would have – but I had to pull a lever. Kind of bogged me down for that entire 40 hours.” 

Try that on your boss and let me know if it works. Meanwhile, Republicans, in the words of one of your own, “spare us the gaslighting.

The Reefer is Dangerous!

The fact that this could possibly be an argument in 2020 is in itself a legitimate wonder of the political world, but here we are. 

This particular argument is most efficiently articulated by a collective statement issued by House Republicans on their official website:

Not only is it wrong for Democrats to bring this to the floor . . . but it’s bad policy since it would, according to Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, ‘open the floodgates to marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sale in America—allowing bad actors and transnational criminal organizations to further exploit the nation’s addiction crisis.

Did you see what they did there? “We think this is a bad idea, because according to us, it’s a bad idea.” The statement is so riddled in fallacies and disproven talking points that we shouldn’t even dignify it with a response. We have the facts already and don’t need to rehash them here. 

There are only two conclusions we can draw from this. Either House Republicans are cons and charlatans, or they are innocent time travelers who found a wormhole to 2020 from somewhere circa 1993. If it’s the latter of the two, dear Republicans, then welcome to the new millennium, where truth is as flexible as Silly Putty and feelings trump objectivity. Our best advice is to return to the year from whence you came. Invest in Amazon. Buy Bitcoin early. And for God’s sake, don’t eat Chinese bats. 

I singled out Republicans today because they are currently the most deserving. But trust me; my rage is non-partisan. I won’t, for a minute, try to pretend that Democrats have historically been any less abysmal when it comes to personal freedom. They did, after all, just elect one of the architects of the 90s prison boom, as well as the only candidate in their ranks who still openly opposed cannabis legalization in the primaries. Historically, there’s plenty of blame to go around. 

But right now, in this moment when 68% of the American people favor full recreational legalization and damn-near everyone has come around on medical, the blame for the failure of this bill rests squarely on the shoulders of Republicans, who whether out of ignorance or mindless tribalism, have opted to keep our nation under the smoggy cloud of prohibition. Shame on them.  

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