The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act on Friday.
The MORE Act bill H.R. 3617 would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which would allow state cannabis markets to operate free from federal interference. Removing it from the CSA would thus decriminalize cannabis nationwide.
The MORE Act also requires federal courts to expunge marijuana convictions and saves taxpayers at least $3.6 billion a year in arrests and prosecutions. The bill would also create an “Opportunity Trust Fund” to support minority cannabis entrepreneurs and business development in socially and economically disadvantaged communities negatively affected by the War on Drugs.
According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis, the passage of the MORE Act would increase federal tax revenue by over $8 billion in ten years.
“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health,” said lead sponsor and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY-10).
Nadler noted the bill also would eliminate barriers to medical research, allow the Veteran’s Administration (V.A.) to recommend medical cannabis to veterans with PTSD, and allow financial institutions to service the cannabis industry.
“If states are the laboratories of democracy, it is long past time for the federal government to recognize that legalization has been a resounding success,” Nadler said.
“There are too many Black and Latino men languishing in prison for offenses that are no longer crimes in most states,” said Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10).
Payne was among the co-sponsors of the MORE Act, along with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12).
“This bill would right the social and legal wrongs that put them there and give these Americans a fresh start. Marijuana has been found to help Americans and our veterans handle chronic pain and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Payne added.
“The House of Representatives advances a key progressive priority to end one of the most unjust vestiges of the racist War on Drugs with the passage of the MORE Act,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07) said. “The Progressive Caucus joins our colleagues in Congress, advocates across the country, and the overwhelming majority of Americans who support decriminalizing marijuana in celebrating today’s vote.”
“This vote is a clear indicator that Congress is finally listening to the vast majority of voters who are sick and tired of our failed marijuana criminalization policies,” said cannabis advocacy group NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox. “It is long overdue that we stop punishing adults for using a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol.”
This is the second time in more than 50 years that Congress revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally prohibited substance.
Social Justice MORE Act versus Banking for the Cannabis Industry
While passage of the MORE Act was a good victory for cannabis legalization, its future remains unclear. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) have been working on a social justice bill in the Senate that has yet to be introduced.
At the same time, they are blocking the passage of the SAFE Banking Act, which would help the cannabis industry but would do nothing to end the negative criminal repercussions of cannabis prohibition. In contrast, by removing cannabis from the CSA, the issues the SAFE Banking Act seeks to solve would be addressed.
Many in the cannabis industry are far more eager for the SAFE Banking bill to pass than the MORE Act.
Vice President Kamala Harris introduced the Senate version of the MORE Act while a Senator from California. President Joe Biden remains indifferent at best to cannabis reform.
With the midterm elections in November fast approaching, what will happen with cannabis legalization remains to be seen.