MORE Act Clears Rules Committee, Heads to House Floor
U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler, left, and Andy Biggs provide opening remarks to the House Rules Committee during a March 30 hearing on the MORE Act.
U.S. House Rules Committee

MORE Act Clears Rules Committee, Heads to House Floor

The committee advanced four amendments for the legislation to end the federal prohibition of cannabis; House floor consideration expected April 1.

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March 31, 2022

Federal legislation to end cannabis prohibition is expected to advance to the House floor April 1 after Rules Committee members voted 9-4 in favor of attaching four amendments to the bill on Wednesday evening.

Overall, the committee entertained 22 amendments to the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which aims to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, provide expungements for cannabis offenses and impose a federal tax on cannabis that would help fund programs for those adversely affected by the drug war.

Sponsored by U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the legislation, House Bill 3617, was first introduced in July 2019 and was passed by the full lower chamber via a 228-164 vote in December 2020. That marked the first time a full body of Congress voted on a broad cannabis decriminalization bill.

RELATED: U.S. House Passes MORE Act

“I was proud to introduce this long overdue legislation to reverse decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalization of marijuana,” Nadler said during his opening remarks before the Rules Committee on Wednesday.

“It would also take steps to address the heavy toll these policies have taken across the country, particularly among communities of color,” he said. “Last time, the House voted on a bipartisan basis to address this issue. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act, so I’m pleased that we’re moving forward again.”

Despite the federal government’s continued criminalization of cannabis, 37 states have legalized medical cannabis for commercial sale without low-THC restrictions, while 18 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized adult-use cannabis.

Nadler highlighted three main focuses of his 92-page bill, which would:

  • remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances;
  • authorize the provision of resources funded by the federal tax of cannabis sales to address the needs of communities that have been “seriously” impacted by federal prohibition policies, including increasing the participation of communities of color in the burgeoning cannabis market; and
  • provide the expungement of federal cannabis convictions and arrests.

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health,” Nadler said. “Whatever everyone’s views are on the use of marijuana, for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution and incarceration at the federal level has proven both unwise and unjust.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., a member of the House Judiciary Committee, argued that while members are busy taking up considerations on the MORE Act, they’re ignoring issues such as the “border crisis, inflation, crime rates, etc., to talk about legalization of marijuana at the federal level.”

He neglected to mention that 68% of Americans support full legalization, according to a November Gallup Poll; 91% of U.S. adults support federal legalization of medical cannabis, according to an April 2021 Pew Research Center survey; and an estimated 40,000 people remained incarcerated for cannabis offenses in the U.S., according to Forbes.

“This isn’t just about legalization though. This is a marijuana stimulus bill,” Biggs said. “H.R. 3617 doesn’t just federally deschedule marijuana. It incentivizes marijuana use and distribution, and it’s reckless in its approach, provides no limits on or requirements to clearly identify the potency of the marijuana or its extracts or concentrates.”

States that have legalized medical or adult-use cannabis have strict rules and regulations in place regarding properly packaging and labeling products to provide consumers with THC content, in addition to ensuring those products are tested by approved laboratories.

Among the 22 amendments considered by the committee, four were approved to advance to the House floor:

  • Considered as adopted, Nadler offered an amendment clarifying that a provision relating to immigration laws fully protects immigrants from being subject to cannabis as a controlled substance “relating to the possession or use of cannabis that is no longer prohibited pursuant to this Act or an amendment made by this Act.”
  • Made in order, an amendment from Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., would direct the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to conduct a study on the impact of legalization to the workplace, using states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis as a guide, and requires NIOSH to develop best practices for employers as companies transition their policies related to cannabis, prioritizing employers engaged in federal infrastructure projects, transportation, public safety and national security. The amendment also aims to direct the Department of Education to conduct a study on the impact of legalization to schools and school-aged children, using states that have legalized adult-use cannabis as a guide, and requires the Department of Education to develop best practices for educators and administrators to protect children from any negative impacts.
  • Made in order, an amendment from Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., aims to authorize $10 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct a study on technologies and methods that law enforcement may use to determine whether a driver is impaired by cannabis.
  • Made in order, an amendment from Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., states that cannabis use shall not be the reason for denying or rescinding a security clearance.

Revealed earlier this month, a new White House employee conduct guideline states that individuals who have invested in cannabis companies can be denied security clearances under President Joe Biden’s administration.

RELATED: Biden Anti-Cannabis Stock Policy Revealed in New Uncovering

Raskin’s amendment would require a review process for security clearances being denied or rescinded going all the way back to May 1971.

Notable among MORE Act amendments that the Rules Committee blocked from advancing were submitted by Reps. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., and Andy Harris, R-Md.

While the MORE Act aims to impose a federal excise tax on cannabis products starting at 5% and increasing to 8% by the fifth year of implementation, Mace’s blocked amendment proposed a structure to reflect a flat tax equal to 3%, which is in line with the States Reform Act (SRA) she sponsors. Competing legislation, SRA also aims to end federal cannabis prohibition.

Mace offered two additional amendments to the MORE Act. One aimed to require the Secretary of Transportation to withhold federal funding for states that legalize adult-use cannabis for those under 21. The other aimed to require responsible advertising provisions be included in the bill.

Meanwhile, Harris offered an amendment that would have blocked any portion of the bill from being carried out until the Comptroller of the U.S., the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Secretary of Transportation “have studied the societal, public health and public safety implications of enactment of the bill, and the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse has certified that the societal, public health and public safety benefits of enactment of this bill outweigh the societal, public health and public safety risks.”

Further consideration and a full chamber vote on the MORE Act are expected to come as soon as Friday.