In late November, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) in a 24-10 vote. The historic vote marked the first time Congress has advanced legislation to legalize marijuana on the federal level. The MORE Act can now proceed to a final floor vote.

Cannabis Legalization Under the MORE Act

Introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the MORE Act is co-sponsored by 54 Democrats and one Republican. Most importantly, the MORE Act would decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The legislation also 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.

"Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing, and the ability to vote," Chairman Nadler said in press statement preceding the vote. "Recognizing this, many states have legalized marijuana.  It’s now time for us to remove the criminal prohibitions against marijuana at the federal level. That’s why I introduced the MORE Act, legislation which would assist communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of these laws.”

The MORE Act would also impose a five percent tax on cannabis products, manufactured in or imported into the United States. The proceeds would be used to fund a grant program, known as the “Community Reinvestment Grant Program,” which would provide eligible entities with funds to administer services for individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. The cannabis tax would not be imposed on hemp products or any medicine or drug that is a prescribed drug.

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?

While the MORE Act is likely to pass in the House, its chances in the Republican-controlled Senate are far less certain. Nonetheless, there is growing pressure to advance cannabis reforms on the federal level. “The Senate will take its own time, but then the Senate always does,” said Nadler. “The energy and the political pressure from the various states is growing rapidly. The Senate is subject to that, too. We’ll accomplish this.”

Even if the MORE Act does not advance in the Senate, it may spur action on other bipartisan bills, such as the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Act), that make more incremental reforms. The House passed the SAFE Act, which would increase the cannabis industry’s access to financial institutions, in September.

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 201-806-3364.

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.