Today House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act to the U.S. House, legislation that would federally legalize cannabis and encourage social equity in the industry.
The measure would "decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses and for other purposes."
Nadler introduced the first version of the MORE Act in July 2019, and the House passed it in a 228-164 vote on Dec. 4, 2020; however, the measure did not make it through the Republican-controlled Senate.
Since Nadler last introduced the MORE Act to Congress, numerous states across the U.S. have legalized cannabis, including New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, Montana, Arizona and more, bringing the total number of U.S. states that have legalized cannabis to 17.
"I'm proud to reintroduce the MORE Act to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, remove the needless burden of marijuana convictions on so many Americans, and invest in communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs," said Nadler in a press release.
According to the press release, the new version of the MORE Act:
- Federally decriminalizes cannabis by removing it as a substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This would apply to prior and pending convictions and would permit states to set their own policies.
- Enables previous offenders to request expungement and require federal courts to expunge prior convictions and conduct re-sentencing hearings for individuals still under supervision.
- Authorizes the analysis of a 5% sales tax on cannabis and cannabis products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
- The Community Reinvestment Grant Program, which provides services like job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring and substance use treatment to individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
- Opportunity Grant Program, which provides funds for loans to aid small businesses in the cannabis industry owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
- The Equitable Licensing Grant Program, which issues funds to programs that minimize barriers to cannabis licensing and employment for the individuals most negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.
- Creates funding for cannabis-related services providers and small businesses.
- Provides non-discrimination protections for cannabis use, possession, and previous cannabis convictions.
- Prohibits any person from being denied federal public benefits based on a prior conviction for a cannabis offense or the use or possession of cannabis.
- Provides that cannabis use or possession, or a prior conviction for a cannabis offense, will have no adverse impact under U.S. immigration laws.
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the industry's demographics to ensure economically disadvantaged individuals and people of color are participating in the industry.
"We applaud Representative Nadler for reintroducing the MORE Act," said David Culver, vice president of global government relations at Canadian-based global cannabis company Canopy Growth in a statement. "This signifies the bipartisan support for cannabis legalization and reconciles the damages caused by the ongoing criminalization of cannabis by creating an equitable and well-regulated marketplace."
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in the press release, “During the last year, people across the country have seen how injustice impacts communities of color—from police brutality to the COVID-19 pandemic. The War on Drugs is no exception. We must deliver justice to those most impacted by America’s racist and discriminatory cannabis laws.”
"This bill will not only put an end to harmful federal cannabis policies that have ruined countless lives, it will seek to reverse the damage by providing true equity and opportunity for those looking to access this booming industry," Lee added. "We are on our way toward true justice."
The House will vote on the legislation, and if passed, it will advance to the Senate.