Later this month, members of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a floor vote on a bill to federally legalize cannabis — the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, commonly referred to as the MORE Act. In November 2019, members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance the House version of the MORE Act. The vote was a landmark moment for cannabis legalization, as the advancement of the bill marked the first time in history that federal lawmakers progressed legislation to de-schedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
If passed, the MORE Act would remove cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances. Further, the bill would impose a 5 percent federal excise tax on non-medicinal cannabis products, the revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the war on drugs. The MORE Act would also expunge the records of those with prior cannabis convictions and create a pathway for resentencing for individuals incarcerated for cannabis offenses. Additionally, the MORE Act would facilitate access to banking services for legitimate cannabis businesses and would allow for certain business tax incentives that are currently unavailable to cannabis businesses under the Internal Revenue Code.
Since last November, support for the MORE Act has grown considerably. For example, just last month, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 220 national advocacy organizations, and more than 125 national, state, and local drug policy, criminal justice reform, and civil rights organizations, communicated their strong support of the MORE Act and urged the House of Representatives to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote in September. In the face of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and a growing national dialogue on unjust law enforcement practices, proponents of the MORE Act view the bill as an effective and equitable way to reinvest in communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
If members of the House of Representatives approve the bill, there will still be an open question about whether the Republican-controlled Senate would follow suit. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a strong advocate for hemp but maintains a steadfast opposition to broader cannabis reform. Meanwhile, Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris is the lead Senate sponsor of the MORE Act.
The latest draft of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 is available here.