In a 24-10 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would effectively end marijuana prohibition on Wednesday. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, or H.R. 3884, was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and currently has 55 cosponsors. This is the first time that a congressional committee has approved a bill to make cannabis legal.
The MORE Act would federally decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, and would require the expungement of past federal cannabis convictions. The bill would establish a Cannabis Justice Office to administer a program to reinvest resources in the communities that have been most heavily impacted by prohibition, funded by a 5% tax on state-legal cannabis commerce. It would also allow the Small Business Administration to provide loans and grants to cannabis-related businesses and support state and local equity licensing programs, and would permit doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to recommend medical cannabis to patients in accordance with applicable state laws.
“Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “Thanks to the diligent efforts of advocates and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, we’ve seen more progress in this Congress than ever before. Supermajority public support for legalization, increasing recognition of the devastating impacts of prohibition on marginalized communities and people of color, and the undeniable success of state cannabis programs throughout the country are all helping to build momentum for comprehensive change in the foreseeable future.”
A Pew Research Center survey released last week showed record support for making marijuana legal, with 67% of all adults in favor of legalization – including a majority of Republican respondents.
A recent amendment to the bill included the addition of language contained in the Realizing Equitable & Sustainable Participation in Emerging Cannabis Trades (RESPECT) Resolution introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). This resolution was the basis for a paper released by NCIA earlier this year on specific policy goals that can help ensure fairness and equal representation in the cannabis industry.
“There is still much work to be done, including the establishment of sound federal regulations for cannabis products,” continued Smith. “This vote brings us one step closer to ending the disaster that is prohibition and repairing the harms it has caused while we continue the discussion in Congress about how to best regulate cannabis at the federal level. We urge lawmakers to move forward with this necessary bill without delay.”
Last month, NCIA released an in-depth set of recommendations that should be used to establish a federal regulatory structure for different types of cannabis and hemp products through existing federal agencies so that cannabis products can be effectively regulated similarly to alcohol and other consumables.