By Shuki Greer, Esq.
The House of Representatives, or more accurately the House Judiciary Committee, announced this week that they will be holding a markup for the MORE Act on Wednesday, November 20th. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (“MORE Act”) is a comprehensive legislative bill to completely overhaul the cannabis laws of the federal government. The revolutionary bill may be voted on the same day, and if it passes, the focus will shift to the Senate to pass the same.
The MORE Act has several key points. First, and most importantly, it removes cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act. It completely eliminates the criminal laws prohibiting cannabis at the federal level, while leaving room for states to create their own legal framework. Second, it creates a pathway for expungement and resentencing for existing marijuana convictions.
The bill goes further. It authorizes a 5% sales tax on cannabis sales, creating a fund that will be used to ameliorate the negative effects of the War on Drugs, create incentives for small businesses, and to support disadvantaged and marginalized people and communities.
Everyone that I’ve spoken to agrees that this bill is long overdue. The negative effects that our nation’s marijuana laws have caused are too numerous to mention. Cannabis’ medicinal and therapeutic uses are undeniable, and it’s about time that Congress does something about it.
But while the introduction of the bill may be cause for celebration, and while it may even have the support to pass the House, we are still far away from this bill becoming law. This is because unlike the Democratic-controlled House, the Senate is run by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans. Mitch famously stated that he won’t support marijuana legalization, even as he pushed for the legalization of hemp. The SAFE Banking Act, a far less controversial bill allowing financial institutions to do business with the legal cannabis industry, has completely stalled under Mitch’s watch. Mitch visited with industry leaders last month, but there is not much optimism that he will bring the SAFE Banking Act bill to a vote in the near future. While that bill remains tabled, it seems extremely unlikely that the MORE Act would ever get any traction.
Unfortunately, we are still a long way away from full federal legalization. While the list of states with medicinal and/or adult-use programs seems to increase from month to month, Washington lags behind. As long as we have presidential candidates calling cannabis a “gateway drug”, and leaders who still call it “Reefer”, cannabis will be federally illegal for years to come.