House Passes Cannabis Decriminalization Bill

The United States House of Representatives has passed a bill to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level.

The House today passed HR 3884, also known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, by a vote of 228-164.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced the MORE Act on July 23, 2019, and the House Judiciary Committee passed the bill on November 20, 2019.

In a statement, Chairman Nadler said that he was extremely proud that the MORE Act had passed the House with a bipartisan vote.

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health,” said Nadler. “Growing recognition in the states show that the status quo on this issue is unacceptable. My legislation will reverse the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and will take the long overdue steps to address the heavy toll the War on drugs has taken across the country, particularly on communities of color.”

Under the MORE Act, cannabis would disappear from the federal government’s Controlled Substances Act.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics would undertake the collection of demographic data on the cannabis industry to ensure that economically disadvantaged people of color are participating in the industry.

The MORE Act’s policies would apply retroactively to prior and pending convictions and allow states to set their own cannabis policies.

The MORE Act would expunge the cannabis offenses of non-violent offenders, and open up Small Business Administration funding for legal cannabis-related businesses and service providers.

The Act would also prohibit the denial of federal public benefits based on cannabis use or prior conviction, and have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.

The MORE Act would establish a 5 percent tax on cannabis products that would fund an “Opportunity Trust Fund” for community reinvestment, cannabis opportunity, and equitable licensing grant programs

The Veterans Cannabis Coalition (VCC) lauded the bill’s passage in the House as a victory for medical cannabis, stating, “The fight for legalization and the investigation of the medical benefits of cannabis promises to strike at a number of social ills: expanding beneficial treatment options to so many in need of alternatives, eliminating a major driver in mass incarceration, and jumpstarting a new economic sector are just a few of many.”

The VCC says the MORE Act gives the United States an opportunity to recognize the damage done by cannabis criminalization and correct course.

The MORE Act would allow the Department of Transportation and the Coast Guard to continue to issue regulations and test for the unauthorized presence or use of cannabis by certain transportation employees in safety-sensitive positions.

The MORE Act now heads to the Senate, where, according to NPR, it does not have a good chance of passing due to a Republican majority and GOP opposition.

NORML expressed hope in the MORE Act’s passage in the House by stating that “establishing this new trajectory for federal policy, we expect that more states will revisit and amend the archaic criminalization of cannabis, establish regulated consumer marketplaces, and direct law enforcement to cease the practice of arresting over half a million Americans annually for marijuana violations—arrests which disproportionately fall upon those on people of color and those on the lower end of the economic spectrum.”