Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
The bill would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, where it has remained in the strictest category, Schedule 1, since the passage of the Act fifty years ago. While the MORE Act would end the federal criminalization of cannabis, states could still opt to maintain cannabis prohibition (similar to dry states or jurisdictions). Today, cannabis is legal for adult use in 18 states and D.C., and for medical use in most states.
“Since I introduced the MORE Act last Congress, numerous states across the nation, including my home state of New York, have moved to legalize marijuana. Our federal laws must keep up with this pace,” Nadler said in a statement.
In an historic vote, the US House of Representatives passed the MORE Act in December by a wide margin following an hour of debate. Though, the bill stood no chance in the last Senate. And this time around, even if the bill passes out of the House again, the chances of passage in the Senate remain low, as the Democrats’ control is slim, and Congress remains focused on other priorities. (Read Cannabis Wire’s in-depth story on the narrow path for cannabis reform in the new Congress.)
The MORE Act provides for far more reform than the SAFE Banking Act, which passed out of the House in April, and is the only cannabis bill to advance in this Congress. The SAFE Banking Act, as Cannabis Wire has reported, is a narrow bill that aims only to provide for expanded access to banking and other financial services for the cannabis industry, as banks are sometimes reluctant to transact with the federally-prohibited industry. The Act, like the MORE Act, passed out of the House in the last Congress, as well.
Still, a far more comprehensive bill is forthcoming from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker, who have said their bill will build upon the foundation, and aims, of the MORE Act. Their bill is also expected to, unlike the MORE Act, include a regulatory framework.
While the new version of the MORE Act has some tweaks, it would still create a host of programs focused on social and racial justice, from those aimed at youth and reentry to employment, as well as grants for communities affected by the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis laws. The bill would also create a path to expunge many cannabis-related records.
Federal cannabis prohibition also often puts vulnerable populations more at risk, as cannabis arrests can, for example, lead to deportation or denial of citizenship. (Read Cannabis Wire’s deep dive reporting at the intersection of cannabis and immigration.)
Cannabis arrests can also lead to the denial of important services like student financial aid or federal benefits. The MORE Act would prevent the federal government from denying these benefits, and would also stop cannabis consumption from affecting potential federal employment.
The reintroduced version of the MORE Act is sponsored again by Representatives Barbara Lee, Earl Blumenauer, Nydia Velázquez, and Hakeem Jeffries, as well as by Sheila Jackson Lee. Blumenauer and Lee are members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.
In years passed, the MORE Act attracted some big name lobbying registrations, as Cannabis Wire has reported. Entities who registered include the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Associated General Contractors of America, Cannabis Trade Federation Action, Drug Policy Alliance, Heritage Action for America, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Cannabis Industry Association, National Cannabis Roundtable, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Square, Inc., United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, and major cannabis companies including Curaleaf, Parallel (formerly Surterra), and Constellation Brands (the alcohol giant is a stakeholder in Canopy Growth).