The U.S. House of Representatives is planning a September vote on a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and allow the states to create their own cannabis policies. If passed, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
In a statement, House Majority Whip Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina wrote that during the week of September 21, “the House will take up Chairman Nadler’s MORE Act to help restore justice to millions by decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records of nonviolent federal cannabis convictions.”
The MORE Act
The MORE Act was introduced in the House in July 2019 by Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York who serves as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate’s version of the bill was introduced at the same time by Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democrat from California who is her party’s nominee for Vice President in this November’s election. The bill has 87 co-sponsors in the House, including Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, the co-Chairman of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
“Less than two years ago, we put out our blueprint outlining a path to cannabis legalization in the 116th Congress,” Blumenauer said in a press release. “Now, after many months of hard work and collaboration, we finally have a chance to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against people of color, especially Black men. As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice.”
When Harris announced the introduction of the bill last year, she said that federal cannabis policy is due for reform.
“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” said Harris. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”
The bill would also make other changes to federal law, including a provision that would make legal cannabis companies eligible for support from the Small Business Administration. The measure would also allow Veterans Administration physicians to write recommendations for patients in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The bill includes provisions that incentivize states to expunge marijuana convictions, as well.
“Passage of The MORE Act is essential in order to truly right the wrongs of federal marijuana criminalization, and to once and for all allow the majority of states that have legalized cannabis for either medical or adult-use to embrace these policies free from the threat of undue federal prosecution or interference,” said Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
In November of last year, the House Judiciary Committee approved the MORE Act in a historic vote that marked the first time federal lawmakers have advanced a bill to remove cannabis from the nation’s list of controlled substances. If the measure is passed by the House, it would have to then be taken up in the Senate, where approval under current Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems unlikely.