Later this month, members of the US House of Representatives were expected to vote for the first time on a bill to legalize marijuana, marking a significant milestone in the history of marijuana reform. There are many marijuana-related reform bills pending in Congress, but The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (aka The MORE Act) that Congress was set to vote on in late September, is the most significant and comprehensive marijuana reform bill pending; decriminalizing marijuana and making several changes to the marijuana policy on a federal level.
What makes this bill so significant? “The MORE Act would actually erase past convictions for marijuana offenses, opening the door to opportunities to jobs, housing, education, things that could help people, but it would also make it so people will no longer be denied federal benefits because of marijuana activity,” said Maritza Perez, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (i).
Specifically, The MORE Act removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana (ii).
The bill also makes other 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 a 5% tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund,
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), and
establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.
Despite widespread support of The MORE Act from legalization advocates, the House has decided to postpone the much-anticipated vote until late Fall 2020. “Right now, the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said in a statement (iii).
Supporters of The More Act are disappointed the House leaders have reversed their previously announced plan, but they remain hopeful that marijuana reform will continue to have momentum, and that after the election in November, the bill will be revisited. In the meantime, we’ll be following this topic closely, so stay tuned here for updates.
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