US House Passes MORE Act To End Federal Prohibition of Marijuana
- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a major cannabis policy reform legislation
- The MORE Act ends prohibition and also contains several regulatory features and social equity provisions.
- What lawmakers are saying about the MORE act
- Next Step: This bill will be sent to the senate for their vote to make it law
MORE - Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a major cannabis policy reform legislation package called the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
On the morning of Friday, April 1st, the legislative body held an hour-long debate on the proposal after which the House voted 220 to 204 to pass the bill.
It’s actually not the first time the House has passed this particular package (with slight adjustments this time). Prior to today’s vote, the MORE Act was passed in 2020. However, the bill never made it to a floor vote in the Senate.
What’s in the bill?
In addition to ending prohibition, the MORE Act also contains several regulatory features and social equity provisions.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the main features of the legislation:
- The MORE Act would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances.
- All references to “marijuana” or “marihuana” in federal laws will be changed to “cannabis.”
- States would be able to determine their own cannabis regulations.
- Cannabis producers and importers will be required to obtain a federal permit and pay $1,000 per year for each facility they operate.
- A federal excise tax would be applied to all cannabis production. The tax rate would start at five percent for two years and then rise to eight percent by the fifth year.
- Tax revenue from cannabis sales would be placed in a new “Opportunity Trust Fund.” Half of the money will be used for a Community Reinvestment Grant Program that will “fund eligible non-profit community organizations to provide a variety of services for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs…to include job training, reentry services, legal aid for civil and criminal cases (including for expungement of cannabis convictions), among others.”
- Also, a Cannabis Restorative Opportunity Program will be implemented to offer loans “to assist small business concerns that are owned and controlled by individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs in eligible States and localities.”
- Federal agencies won’t be able to use “past or present cannabis or marijuana use as criteria for granting, denying, or rescinding a security clearance.”
- Non-violent federal marijuana convictions will be expunged.
Several additional provisions call on certain federal agencies to conduct studies or implement policies related to the new rules.
Two amendments were added to the bill prior to the vote. One sets aside $10 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and earmarked for research on “technologies and methods that law enforcement may use to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana.” Another amendment tasks the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health with conducting a study on the “impact of the legalization of recreational cannabis by states on the workplace.”
What lawmakers are saying about the MORE act
Several House members got up to speak prior to the vote. Here’s what some of them had to say on the topic.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler called the MORE Act “long overdue legislation that would reverse decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalization of marijuana.”
“It would also take steps to address the heavy toll these policies have taken across the country, particularly among communities of color. For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem, instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrest, prosecution, and incarceration at the federal level has proven both unwise and unjust.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the MORE Act “an important piece of legislation.”
“This bill is a matter of justice and equal opportunity. It’s about addressing systemic inequities and reforming our criminal justice system so that Americans and America can become a better, stronger, more fair, and more just America.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said:
“We must end this failed policy of marijuana prohibition, which has led to the shattering of so many lives, primarily black and brown people—and yes, that is extremely important.”
Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the Democratic Caucus, said:
“We have an over-criminalization problem in America. We have a mass incarceration problem in America. We have a prison industrial complex in America… [prohibition] doesn’t advance public safety and it hurts economic development… It has ruined individuals lives, ruined families and ruined communities, particularly in communities of color,” Jeffries said. “It’s time to end the federal cannabis prohibition.”
Rep. Steve Cohen pointed out that it’s been 50 years since a study commissioned by former president Richard Nixon recommended legalization. He also said:
“Congress has been out of step on this issue. We must deschedule marijuana. We must decriminalize it at the federal level. Now it’s time to do some remedies to our federal marijuana laws. This is a historic time.”
Rep. Dina Titus said that the MORE Act “is a historic piece of legislation—no question about it.”
“With the passage of the MORE Act, the marijuana industry can become a key element of growing and diversifying our economy, creating more good jobs and putting more folks back to work as we recover from the pandemic.”
Rep. David Cicilline said the MORE Act “takes an important step in rectifying some of the harm caused by the failed war on drugs.”
“The enforcement of marijuana laws has been a major driver of mass incarceration in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people are arrested each year for marijuana-related charges, very often just possession.”
Prior to the vote, the House Judiciary Committee released a nearly 500-page report outlining arguments for and against the reform and explaining the potential benefits of legalization. Also, a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report claimed that enacting the MORE Act would bring in billions of dollars in tax revenues and greatly reduce costs related to enforcing prohibition.
Other cannabis policy reform efforts
Another bill designed to tax and regulate marijuana is also being considered by the House. The States Reform Act was expected to receive a hearing following the MORE Act floor vote.
Meanwhile, the Senate is working on another cannabis package called the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA). Also, just last week, the Senate approved a bipartisan bill to accelerate research into medical marijuana.
One of the most important pieces of legislation as far as the cannabis industry is concerned is the SAFE Banking Act. Although the bill would not legalize marijuana it would bar federal banking regulators from punishing banks for providing services to cannabis-related businesses in states where the drug is legal. This would alleviate the need for cannabis dispensaries to deal only in cash and relieve all of the headaches that come with that.
Advocates are hopeful that Congress will continue to do the right thing and work toward ending the senseless war on drugs that has cost so much money and done so much harm to the American people — especially minorities — over the past century.
Next Step: The Senate Vote
The bill must now pass in the senate.