The U.S. House of Representatives could make history this month, with lawmakers poised to vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would legalize marijuana on the federal level.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler introduced H.R. 3884 last fall, and the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last November. The historic vote marked the first time Congress has advanced legislation to legalize marijuana on the federal level.

Now, the MORE Act will head before the full House for a floor vote. In an email to his colleagues, Majority Whip James Clyburn stated that the House is “expected” to take up the MORE Act during the “September work period.” The date of the vote has not yet been confirmed.

"As people across the country protest racial injustices, there's even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice," Rep. Earl Blumenauer, said in a social media post sharing news on the upcoming vote.

Key Provisions of the MORE Act

The MORE Act would decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This would allow state law to determine the status of marijuana legality for each state. In addition, the bill requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions and re-sentence offenders currently under supervision, leaving it up to the states whether to establish their own policies on retroactivity.

The MORE Act would also impose a five percent tax on cannabis products, manufactured in or imported into the United States. The cannabis tax would not be imposed on hemp products or any medicine or drug that is a prescribed drug. The proceeds would be used to fund a grant program, known as the “Community Reinvestment Grant Program.” It would include the following:

  • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program, administered by the Department of Justice, would provide services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.
  • The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), would provide funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • The Equitable Licensing Grant Program, also administered by SBA, would provide funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

Additional provisions of the MORE Act would:

  • Provide funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • Provide funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Open up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provide non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense.
  • Prohibit the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
  • Provide that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

What’s Next?

Passage of the MORE Act is likely in the Democratic-controlled House. However, its chances are far less certain in the Senate. Vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris is the lead sponsor of the MORE Act in the Senate. However, many Republicans remain opposed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while a vocal supporter of hemp legalization, has not previously supported full cannabis legalization. Even if the Senate fails to move on full-scale legalization, the pressure created by the MORE Act may spur more incremental reform, such as the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Act). The House has already passed the SAFE Act, which would increase the cannabis industry’s access to financial institutions, last fall.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Dan McKillop, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.

This article is a part of a series pertaining to cannabis legalization in New Jersey and the United States at large. Prior articles in this series are below:

Disclaimer: Possession, use, distribution, and/or sale of cannabis is a Federal crime and is subject to related Federal policy. Legal advice provided by Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC is designed to counsel clients regarding the validity, scope, meaning, and application of existing and/or proposed cannabis law. Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC will not provide assistance in circumventing Federal or state cannabis law or policy, and advice provided by our office should not be construed as such.