The U.S. House of Representatives is planning a floor vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation that would federally decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, and cannabis industry stakeholders are taking notice.
“It’s a fairly comprehensive piece of legislation, talking about descheduling cannabis federally,” Jonathan Havens, co-chair of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr’s Cannabis Law Practice, tells Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary. “It would completely change the treatment of the federal regulation of cannabis.”
The upcoming vote, first reported by Marijuana Moment, is planned for September and could lead to monumental progress for the industry, even if the legislation encounters roadblocks in the Senate, where its passage is less likely, according to Patrick Martin, a lobbyist with Cozen O’Connor.
“Passing a legalization bill on the House floor would be tremendous progress, and I think it would set a precedent moving forward that will ultimately help lead to legalization,” he says.
Aside from federal decriminalization, the MORE Act also strives to address the past harms of cannabis prohibition, particularly on communities of color and other marginalized groups.
The legislation would require federal courts to expunge prior cannabis-related convictions, and would impose a 5% excise tax on the legal cannabis industry to fund these expungement efforts, as well as three grant programs. As outlined in the bill, these are:
The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring and substance use treatment The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers