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House to Vote on a Landmark Marijuana Legalization Bill

by Sarah Cawthon September 10, 2020

Update (9/20/2020): The House of Representatives has delayed their vote on the MORE Act, allowing legislators to focus first on COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts. According to democratic leaders of the House, the vote will be held later this year instead.

The House will vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act during the week of September 21, according to House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler, would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, help to restore justice to millions by decriminalizing marijuana and expunging records of nonviolent federal marijuana convictions.

In August, a coalition of drug policy and civil rights organizations including, the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, Human Rights Watch and Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), called for a vote on the MORE Act by the end of September.

“I’m pleased to bring the MORE Act to the House Floor next month to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level,” said Hoyer. “This legislation is an important step to correct the disproportionate impact our criminal justice system has had on communities of color.”

shutterstock_492045100-jpgThe bill would also create a pathway for resentencing those who are incarcerated for marijuana offenses, protect immigrants from being denied citizenship and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances because of marijuana use.

Additionally, it would also impose a federal five percent tax on sales, revenue from which would be reinvested in communities most impacted by the drug war. States would still pass their own regulations on the sale of marijuana.

If the House approves the bill, it would still need to pass through the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a strong proponent of hemp, but has maintained his opposition to marijuana reform. However, he also held closed-door meetings with industry representatives in 2019.

The vote comes as views of marijuana have changed and an increasing number of Americans and congresspeople support legalization of the plant for recreational or medicinal use. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 66 percent of Americans support legalization.

Currently, marijuana is a federal and state patchwork of regulations and laws, and federal legalization could offer a normalization for marijuana businesses and states. Recreational marijuana is legal in eleven states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, 33 states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rice and the U.S. Virgin Islands have legalized the plant for medicinal use. However, marijuana is still considered federally illegal.

Advocates were disappointed when lawmakers decided not to include marijuana legalization in a recent policing reform bill that was passed by the House. Legislators argued that it could have been appropriate to include legalization because ending marijuana criminalization would minimize police interactions.

“It is only a matter of time before cannabis is descheduled at the federal level and the other reforms contained in the MORE Act are enacted,” said Steve Fox, a strategic advisor to the Cannabis Trade Federation. “We are supportive of any committee hearing or vote that moves us closer to our ultimate goals of ending cannabis prohibition, advancing social equity, and regulating cannabis like alcohol under federal law.”

If marijuana is federally legalized, additional states may decide to open marijuana business opportunities. Begin preparing with our Marijuana Business Application Guide & Checklist.