The bill, called the "Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019" or the “MORE Act,” was introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and passed the House Judiciary Committee essentially along party lines, although two Republicans voted with the Democrats. The bill, if enacted into law, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level and allowing states to legalize cannabis if they choose to do so. In addition, the bill contains social justice provisions, including authorizing a 5% excise tax on marijuana products so that the resulting funds can be used to address the needs of communities that have been most seriously impacted by the so-called “War on Drugs” and providing for the expungement of federal marijuana convictions and arrests.

The bill now moves on to the full House, where it is expected to pass. However, the bill is expected to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has previously stated that, despite his support of Hemp legalization, he had no plans to support the legalization of marijuana.

Ad agencies with cannabis clients know all too well how the tension between state legalization and federal criminalization of marijuana creates obstacles when trying to advertising marijuana products. And while the MORE Act leaving committee is a baby-step toward federal decriminalization, full federal legalization of marijuana is likely still a long way off.

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views on the use of marijuana ... arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating users at the federal level is unwise and unjust” -- Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)