For the second time in American history, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on whether or not to end the federal ban on cannabis – and it passed.
America is slowly but surely approaching the days of federally legalized cannabis. Maybe the grass is greener on the other side.
On Friday April 1st, the House floor passed the MORE Act along party lines, with 220 votes in favor and 204 opposing.
The MORE Act, or the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment Expungement Act, is sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
With the support of one House down, the bill will now make its way to the Senate, where its longevity will be put to the test.
The bill will need 60 votes in order for it to become a law. This means that it requires support from at least 10 GOP senators if every Democrat backs it.
This is the real obstacle, considering many Republicans are in opposition of legalizing cannabis. On the contrary, Democratic senators in support of the MORE Act are pushing to introduce legislation before recess in August. This sense of urgency is vital in maintaining the momentum of the bill.
Originally introduced in December 2020, the previous House had already approved the MORE Act by a margin of 228-164. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill last September (2021).
However, the Bill did not pass the Senate before the end of the two-year legislative cycle, thus why it was reintroduced to the House and started over with the new Congress that was seated in January 2021.
Here’s what you need to know about the MORE Act:
First and foremost, this bill decriminalizes marijuana. Meaning it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. Additionally, it eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.
The bill also makes other profound changes, including the following:
- Replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees
- Establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs
- Imposes an excise tax on cannabis products produced in or imported into the United States and an occupational tax on cannabis production facilities and export warehouses
- Makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers
- Prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions
- Prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction)
- Establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses
- Directs the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization.
In February, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also explained in a press conference and in a letter to colleagues the details of his own bill to federally legalize cannabis.
Schumer plans to file his CAOA Act, or Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act, this month (April 2022).
Backers of the CAOA Act have stated that the plan aims to build upon the text in the MORE Act.
Many are worried that neither the MORE or CAOA Act will pass the Senate. Due to this, cannabis executives are taking a slightly different route. They’ve begun pushing Democrats in the Senate to prioritize bills that have bipartisan support.
For example, executives are trying to drive forward the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow legally operating cannabis businesses to utilize banking services. The SAFE Banking Act passed the House on April 19, 2021.
All in all, cannabis reform is on the horizon. It still might take some time, but there is more movement now than ever before – which is something to be optimistic about.