The United States has a reason to celebrate, as a congressional committee just made history by approving the marijuana legislation bill.
With a bipartisan vote of 24 to 10, the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act), will now remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and impose a minor excise tax on the legal cannabis industry to pay for the expungement of criminal records.
While Republican lawmakers were worried that the bill was being rushed and that it should be subject to additional hearings, the Democrats were standing their ground by argued that “there’s been enough debate on the issue and that there’s no time for delay in beginning to reverse decades of harms of prohibition enforcement”.
If the law passes entirely, it would allow the Small Business Administration to issue loans and grants to marijuana-related businesses, and provide a green light for physicians in the Veterans Affairs system to prescribe medical cannabis to patients, as long as they abide by state-specific laws.
The executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Erik Altieri, has pointed out that this is the first time the Congressional committee has had approved а legislation to end the federal marijuana prohibition, and also to address the harms the prohibitionist policies have wrought.
As the NORML Political Director Justin Strekal, has stated, the bill will reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, and it will also provide pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most.
This is what the MORE Act HR 3884, is supposed to achieve:
- Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions and enables states to set their policies.
- Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
- Authorizes the assessment of a 5% excise tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs: the Community Reinvestment Grant Program, the Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program, and the Equitable Licensing Grant Program
- Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
- Requires 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.
- Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense: Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense and provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
The statistics show that in 2018 alone, over 663,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana-related crimes, a three-year high, which highlights the problem which can no longer be ignored. Now, with the MORE Act, the full House will be given a chance to vote and have every member of Congress show their constituents which side of history they stand on.