The House has passed a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The MORE Act (The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act) would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and eliminate criminal penalties for individuals who manufacture, distribute, or possess marijuana.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the bill would be an important step in addressing the “racial disparities in conviction rates” for drug-related offenses. The bill passed largely along party lines and has little hope of passing the Republican-led Senate. But it’s historic nonetheless. This is the first time a chamber of Congress has voted on federal marijuana decriminalization.
But how will it affect those who are already using medical marijuana in states where it’s been legalized? If MORE actually passes in the Senate, it would mean that marijuana could be safely taken across state lines without fear of legal recrimination. I would also mean that those who have been anxious to research cannabis further could feel free to transport it and have it in their labs and facilities for testing.
As of this writing, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Eleven of these states also permit marijuana possession by adults, and ten of them also regulate adult-use sales. On the state level, laws have been passed to protect users of medical and even recreational marijuana, these laws do not line up with Federal laws. This makes something as simple as setting up a bank account for a cannabis business along with a number of other typical tasks, impossible. Until the cannabis plant is rescheduled on a Federal level, and that’s also what The MORE Act intends to do.
In addition, to assisting in making transporting recommendations across state lines and making doing business in the cannabis industry more viable, The MORE Act also includes decriminalizing cannabis on a Federal level and expunging the criminal records of certain prior offenders. Just this part of The MORE Act alone is estimated to save the Department of Corrections an astounding one billion dollars.
Although there are numerous marijuana reform acts currently before Congress, The MORE Act is historical for several reasons.
First, it will be the first time since 1970 that a Congressional chamber has voted on legislation to remove marijuana from its Schedule 1 position under federal law.
Second, the vote will put 435 members of the House on record. The public will know who stands with the majority of Americans in support of an end to the failed federal policy of marijuana prohibition. According to the PEW Foundation, two-thirds of Americans currently support the federal legalization of marijuana. That’s more than claim to be members of either of the political parties.
Third, a majority vote in favor of MORE will provide those who are pushing for further marijuana reform with the groundwork to keep moving forward.
Finally, the advancement of The MORE Act by the House sets the stage for a potential Senate battle in 2021. If Democrats gain majority control of the Senate in November, Speaker Mitch McConnell will no longer be able to single-handedly stonewall legislative progress.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who sponsored the bill, said he thought Washington shouldn’t stay so far behind parts of the nation.
“Federal action on this issue would follow the growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable. Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.”