The House Judiciary Committee has passed a new bill to decriminalise cannabis, which will now go to face the Senate.
In a landmark move on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to pass H.R 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, by a vote of 24-10 – which aims to decriminalise cannabis at the federal level.
The MORE Act is one of the most comprehensive cannabis reforms bills ever introduced in the US Congress.
As well as requiring federal courts to expunge prior convictions, the bill requires cannabis to be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, under which it is categorised as a Schudeule 1 substance; the same category as heroin. It also requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
If passed in the Senate, states will have the ability to set their own cannabis policy.
The MORE Act
The MORE Act aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of colour and low-income communities by decriminalising cannabis at the federal level, reassessing cannabis convictions, and investing in local communities.
It also authorises the assessment of a 5% sales tax on cannabis and cannabis products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programmes. These will aim to provide services to those communities mostly impacted by the failed war on drugs, such as job training, literacy programmes and substance use treatment.
US cannabis businesses
The MORE Act will provide loans to assist small cannabis businesses that are owned by disadvantaged individuals and will provide funds for programmes that aim to minimise barriers to cannabis licensing and employment for those most impacted by drug policy.
This bill opens up pathways for smaller cannabis businesses through its Small Business Administration funding.
Expungement and protections
Those with convictions for cannabis use or possession will have their convictions expunged, and all those currently under supervision will be undergo re-sentencing hearings.
The bill also prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of cannabis, or prior conviction for a cannabis offence, and states that a conviction will now have no adverse impacts under immigration laws.
Finally, the MORE Act requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of colour and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.
Recognising historic injustice
Chairman of the Committee Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said: “I have long believed that the criminalisation of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake.
“While states have led the way in reform, our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. With the passage of the MORE Act today, the Judiciary Committee has taken long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs and to finally decriminalise marijuana at the federal level.”
This is just the beginning for the MORE Act, which must now make its way to a vote at the Senate.