The MORE Act Vote
The federal legalization of cannabis may be just hours away as the House Committee on Rules Committee has passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) to a full floor vote.
The MORE Act, if passed, removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which will effectively end discrepancies between state and federal jurisdictions. This historic vote can determine the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis.
As the “Democrat-controlled House” deliberates on the MORE Act, the GOP majority in the Senate may crush it. Despite our nation’s partisanship issues, the fact remains that two-thirds of Americans are supporting legalization.
According to NORML, “The vote will mark the first time in 50 years that a chamber of Congress has ever addressed the question of ending the federal criminalization of cannabis.”
Regardless of its outcome, the advancement of this bill heading to the Senate floor tomorrow is indicative of the rising conscientiousness of the federal government and the wider public surrounding the harm perpetrated by the war on drugs. There is growing awareness surrounding the ways in which marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects people of color. Despite similar usage rates, Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes.
Narrow focused, thoughtful, and inclusive: The MORE Act not only does and says more than what the federal decriminalization of cannabis means to minority communities systematically targeted and wrongfully punished for cannabis related crimes stemming from the war on drugs.
“[The MORE Act] is designed to eliminate decades of bad law and… discrimination…”
— Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter.
Introduced by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the bill removes cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances.
“This means that going forward, individuals could no longer be prosecuted federally for marijuana offenses, this does not mean that marijuana would be legal in the entire United States,” said Jackson Lee.
Trust Fund Reparations
Additionally, the bill establishes a trust fund dedicated to minority communities affected by the war on drugs. Resources for the fund will be sourced from an incrementally increasing five-year “taxation structure” on federally regulated cannabis, which will transition from an initial five percent to eight percent.
“The fund will be used for rehabilitation and re-entry programs for the department of justice and for programs in the small business administration to ensure that funding for the marijuana market is diverse. And opens up opportunities for entrepreneurship in communities that have been adversely impacted by the war on drugs,” added Jackson Lee.
Expunge and Seal
Lastly, the bill can “expunge and seal” any federal cannabis convictions and re-sentence individuals on a case by case basis. Jackson Lee explained: “A much-needed measure to try to undo the damage that has been done to our communities since marijuana was arbitrarily placed on the list of controlled substances.”
Ben Cline, the Virginia Representative, critiques the process, by saying the bill is “jammed through the committee and now, at the eleventh-hour, democrats are attempting to appease the far left by forcing a vote on it…”
Cline also argues that individuals previously federally convicted of cannabis related charges should not be pardoned due to a change in legislation. However, members of the committee unanimously shower the bill with praise, repetitively quoting Dr. Martin Luther King speeches, most notably using the words of Hillel: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when.”
Florida Representative Donna Shalala, said, “I clearly support this bill…” then transitioned into a soft questioning of public health safety accompanied by federal legalization of cannabis, specifically, in regards to vaping.
Jackson Lee was prompt, prepared, and acute in response, stating that the massive majority of individuals who have been injured as a result of vaping were hurt by non-regulated products, sold illegally.
“This is not to promote drug use. It is not to undermine law enforcement. But rather to bring justice to millions of Americans…” said Jackson Lee.
U.N. Joins the Cannabis Movement
The deliberation of the bill is a significant juncture. Indeed, this development is part of the cannabis movement sweeping the world. Just this week, the United Nations moved to remove medical marijuana from the federal list of dangerous drugs.
While most states have legalization or decriminalization in place, the U.S. lacks cohesive and overarching legislation to clarify the position of cannabis in the wider framework of crime and incarceration. The MORE Act is an opportunity for lawmakers to provide the federal clarity needed on this issue.
As deliberations continue, only time will tell if the MORE Act will finally bring legalization and relief after decades of injustice.