Great News for Medical Cannabis: the MORE Act
It’s no secret that medical marijuana, indeed also recreational marijuana, is continuing to become a more popular choice to help alleviate a host of ailments.
The federal government is taking notice.
Back in November of 2019, a landmark bill designed to end the prohibition of cannabis nationwide was considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) was introduced to Congress back in July, and the bill has now been approved by the House of Representatives. It would effectively remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. The act would also further assess federal marijuana convictions and even give back to local communities, using a 5% federal cannabis tax.
Essentially, the MORE Act would:
- Decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and remove it from the Controlled Substances Act.
- Establish a trust fund using the 5% federal tax on cannabis for programs to help people impacted by the “war on drugs”, with substance abuse treatment and job training.
- Require federal courts to expunge prior and pending convictions, and require the courts, on motion, to make re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
- Open small business administration funding for lawful cannabis-related businesses.
- Provide protection that is non-discriminatory for marijuana use or possession. For prior convictions, 1) prohibit the denial of federal public benefits, including housing, based on a prior conviction of a marijuana offense, 2) current use of cannabis or a prior conviction will have no adverse effect under immigration laws.
- Require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the cannabis industry to make sure minorities who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
Up until now, individual states have been leading their own charge in getting cannabis accepted as viable medical treatment. This is a big and bold step at the federal level to do just that. Part of the bill is aimed at allowing states to set their own marijuana policy.
Chairman Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee, in an opening statement back in November, said, “For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health.”
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states, and legal recreationally in 11 states, including the District of Columbia. By removing cannabis from the list of Schedule I substances, which incidentally is in the same category as ecstasy and heroin, it could also provide access to cannabis for Veterans. Current polls show that 65% of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal, and view it as less harmful than alcohol.
But while the House committee voted 24-10 in favor of the bill and is likely to pass, it may face a much tougher fight in the Republican-controlled Senate. Doug Collins, the House committee’s top Republican, said the MORE Act was a non-starter for most of his Republican colleagues, suggesting that it won’t become law, nor lead to real change. Still, this is an important step in federal legislation that will help raise awareness to end criminalization of cannabis use for good.