A key Congressional committee is preparing to vote on the MORE Act, a historic cannabis reform bill that passed the full House of Representatives last fall.
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act is the most progressive cannabis-focused legislation to ever advance through Congress, by a long shot. If passed, the bill would completely remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively ending the federal prohibition of pot. Individual states would still be allowed to ban weed, but federal law enforcement would no longer be able to bust anyone who is complying with their home state's pot laws.
The MORE Act would also create a federal tax on all state-level cannabis sales, which would be used to fund programs that reinvest in communities ravaged by the War on Drugs. The bill would allow people currently serving time in federal prisons for nonviolent weed crimes to apply for resentencing and would clear the criminal records of former pot offenders. Federal authorities would be blocked from firing employees over weed use, and immigrants could no longer be deported for using legal weed.
Last fall, the House passed the MORE Act with a solid vote of 228 to 164, but the Republican-led Senate declined to even discuss it. But in 2021, with Democrats in charge of the presidency and both chambers of Congress, the bill's sponsors have decided to reintroduce it. Later this week, the House Judiciary Committee will hear the bill, along with a slew of other progressive measures that passed the House last year.
“Many of these bills were reported out of the committee and passed by the full House of Representatives last Congress, and I look forward to working with all my colleagues once again to get these bills through Congress and on to the president’s desk,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), lead sponsor of the MORE Act and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in a press release.
It is likely that the House will pass the MORE Act again, as they did last year, but beyond that, the bill's fate is uncertain. Although the Senate is under Democratic control, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is co-sponsoring an alternative legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. Like the MORE Act, this bill would federally deschedule cannabis, tax state-legal weed sales, expunge former pot offenses, and end many weed-related federal restrictions.
Schumer and his co-sponsors solicited public opinion on their legislation until September 1st, and are now working to incorporate that feedback into the bill before it is formally introduced. But since the Senate will be voting on this bill, it is unlikely that they will also schedule a vote on the MORE Act at the same time. And even if one of these bills passes both chambers of Congress, there is still a chance that President Biden would veto it.
Even so, cannabis advocates are encouraged by the fact that Congress is finally working towards federal marijuana reform. NORML has set up an online form making it easy for voters to contact their local Congressperson and advocate for the passage of the MORE Act.
“We are excited to see Chairman Nadler and House leadership move forward once again with passing the MORE Act,” said Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, to Marijuana Moment. “Public support and state-policy demand for repealing federal marijuana criminalization has never been higher and Congressional action on this legislation is long overdue. The days of federal marijuana prohibition are numbered.”