A House of Representatives legislative committee voted Thursday, September 30th to advance H.R. 3617, also known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. The bill legalizes cannabis at the federal level and lets states set their own cannabis policies. After several attempts to amend the bill, the legislation was approved by a vote of 26 to 15 (receiving support from 24 Democrats and 2 Republicans ). Fifteen Republicans voted against the legislation.
The bill establishes a tax on retail cannabis sales, and the revenue would be re-invested into communities harmed under previous federal cannabis prohibition laws. The list of drugs on the Controlled Substances Act would no longer include cannabis. Last but certainly not least, past cannabis convictions would be expunged and federal criminal penalties for cannabis offenses would be eliminated.
“[The bill] would also take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly among communities of color,” said Democratic committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. “I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only made it worse, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.”
The MORE Act also establishes the Opportunity Trust Fund. The fund would provide re-entry services for formerly incarcerated individuals, job training, and health education programs for communities impacted by the so-called “War on Drugs.”
Additionally, the legislation establishes an Office of Cannabis Justice to encourage cannabis research, implement the social equity provisions of the bill, and ensure that federal benefits and services are not denied to cannabis consumers. An initiative called the Cannabis Restorative Opportunity Program to develop cannabis licensing programs in order to limit barriers to participation in the industry would also be created and overseen by the Small Business Association.
“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 the political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Justin Strekal. “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.”