On Thursday, the United States House Judiciary Committee voted to advance critical legislation to repeal federal cannabis prohibition. The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was approved 26-15, with twenty-four Democrats and two Republicans voting yes while fifteen Republicans voted no.
This is the second time the Judiciary Committee has voted to advance the MORE Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and end the state/federal conflict over cannabis policies. (It would also allow states greater authority to regulate cannabis-related retail sales and other activities in the industry.) In 2019, when the MORE Act was first passed by the Committee, it took another thirteen months before lawmakers approved the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. On December 4, 2020, the House voted to approve the MORE Act by a margin of 228 to 164. However, under the leadership of then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate did not consider the legislation before the close of the 116th Congressional session.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, along with Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Earl Blumenauer and Barbara Lee, Judiciary Crime Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, and Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez reintroduced the 2021 version of the bill in May. It is being considered along with the discussion draft for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), introduced in July by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker, that similarly seeks to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
Cannabis advocates are enthusiastic but wary of opposition as they work to get mass support for the MORE Act’s passage. “Never before has public support from every corner of the political spectrum been so aligned as to demand that Congress take action to end the shameful experiment with marijuana prohibition,” said Justin Strekal, Political Director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in a press release. “The continued criminalization of marijuana by the federal government is an affront to our professed ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. By advancing the MORE Act, the House will demonstrate that the majority of our political leaders are ready to correct this injustice and enact cannabis policy reform that undoes the harms that have been inflicted upon millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Now is the time for Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, and Whip Clyburn to schedule the MORE Act for a full floor vote.”
Aside from the MORE Act’s chief objective to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the legislation would make several important changes to federal policy. This would include:
· Facilitating the expungement of people convicted for low-level federal cannabis-related charges
· Creating pathways for ownership opportunities in the legal cannabis industry as well as other sectors for local entrepreneurs and those from communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs through Small Business Administration grant eligibility
· Allowing veterans, for the first time in history, to obtain medical cannabis recommendations from their VA doctors
· Removing the threat of deportation for immigrants who are either gainfully employed in state-legal cannabis industries or who are accused of minor cannabis-related infractions
· Providing critical reinvestment grant opportunities for communities that have suffered disproportionately from the War on Drugs
NORML and other advocacy groups are calling on the public to drive efforts for the MORE Act by contacting Congressional representatives. If you want to add your voice, tell your members of Congress to support, cosponsor, and demand a full vote for the legislation. You can send messages through NORML’s template here.