One Step Closer to US Federal Cannabis Decriminalisation

25th November 2019

In an overwhelming victory for advocates of Cannabis decriminalisation, the MORE Act was passed by the House Judiciary Committee. The MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act) aims to remove Cannabis from the Federal ‘Controlled Substances Act’.

Cannabis was placed in Schedule 1 of the list (the same category as heroin) in the 1970s, and was deemed an ‘illicit’ substance even earlier, in 1937. However, many states have since implemented their own legislation, either decriminalising or legalising the plant in some form.

As it stands, 60% of US states now allow the use of Cannabis for medical purposes and 11 states (including Washington D.C.) have legalised adult-use recreational Cannabis. In addition, several other states continue to debate whether to reform their Cannabis policies.

The MORE Act and Cannabis Decriminalisation

The House Judiciary Committee voted to pass the MORE Act with 24 votes to 10. This victory opens up the debate of Cannabis decriminalisation, and perhaps in the future, legalisation, on a federal level. The next step will be for the bill to be voted on by the Senate.

The MORE Act aims to begin the process of righting the wrongs caused by decades of the failed war on drugs. Decriminalisation would also extend to the expungement of criminal records of individuals arrested or Cannabis offenses. Many have noted the disproportionate effect that criminalistion has had on low-income and communities of colour, which features heavily in proposals of the MORE Act.

Chairman of the Committee Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said:

“I have long believed that the criminalisation of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake.”

Those with convictions of Cannabis use or possession will have their convictions expunged under the Act. In addition, those under supervision for Cannabis offenses will undergo re-sentencing hearings. The MORE Act also prohibits the denial of federal public benefits, such as housing, based on Cannabis convictions.

Opportunity and Reinvestment

The Act will implement various policies to promote opportunity and investment for communities most affected by the war on Cannabis. Firstly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be required to collect demographic data of the industry. This will ensure that people of colour, and those that are economically disadvantaged, are fairly represented in the Cannabis industry.

In addition, the MORE Act will authorise an assessment of a 5% tax on Cannabis and Cannabis products. Money raised through this channel will then support an Opportunity Trust Fund, including three grant programmes. These grants will aim to provide benefits to communities affected by the war on drugs, including through job training, literacy programmes, and substance use treatment.

The MORE Act will also allow the provision of loans for small Cannabis businesses, owned by disadvantaged indivuduals. This echoes the aim of the SAFE Banking Act, which is yet to be voted on by the Senate. It would also provide funds to help minimise barriers for those seeking Cannabis licensing and employment.

Although the vote by the House Judiciary Committee provides a positive boost to the MORE Act, it still faces obstacles. The bill will now be put to the Senate, where its future will be decided.


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