This Wednesday, November 20, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup of H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). The bill’s sponsors and advocates for cannabis normalization say the legislation is the most comprehensive ever considered by Congress. In fact, due to the bill’s sprawling reforms, it was referred to eight separate committees for consideration according to their discrete jurisdictions. The Judiciary Committee will be the first to consider the bill and the Committee members will have opportunities to amend it.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is the bill’s lead sponsor and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He introduced the bill in July and will preside over Wednesday’s markup. Fifty-four Democrats and one Republican have cosponsored the MORE Act.
The most significant provision of the MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act Schedule. The bill also requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions and re-sentence offenders currently under supervision. It also allows states to set their own retroactive policies.
The bill also establishes a 5% federal sales tax on marijuana products, the proceeds of which will fund grant programs designed to make whole communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
Additional provisions would:
- allow access to Small Business Administration funding programs to eligible marijuana businesses,
- prohibit the denial of public benefits based on prior marijuana convictions,
- ensure prior convictions do not affect immigration proceedings, and
- collect data on industry participation among people of color and economically disadvantaged communities.
A companion bill in the Senate was introduced in July by Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and is cosponsored by five other Senate Democrats.
Consideration of the MORE Act was part of a deal to bring the SAFE Banking Act to the floor of the House in September, when it passed by a vote of 321-103. By de-scheduling marijuana, the MORE Act would also effectively open up access to the banking system for the cannabis industry. The incremental safe harbor provisions of the SAFE Banking Act have more bipartisan support, however, giving that bill more political momentum than the MORE Act and other far-reaching pieces of legislation.