In a historic vote on Friday, December 4th, 2020, the US House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 3884, 228 to 164. Otherwise known as The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or the MORE Act, this historic bill was written to deschedule and decriminalize cannabis in the USA, provide for expungement of federal cannabis offenses and for reinvestment in persons negatively impacted by the War on Drugs and “for other purposes”, according to the amended bill.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? To some, yes. To others, not too much. People in cannabis and racial justice communities say that these “other purposes” serve to leave out the very people we’re supposed to be reinvesting in through the MORE Act. Let’s explore the good, bad and somewhere in between of the bill and you can decide for yourself.
What is the MORE Act?
The MORE Act is bipartisan legislation that would deschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. For the first time since the days of Woodstock, cannabis would stand alone from drugs like heroin, crack-cocaine and other hard drugs. Further, various criminal and social-justice reforms would be funded through regulated cannabis tax revenue, a move some call necessary for reparative justice towards those disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs.
This act could end cannabis prohibition once and for all at the federal level, begin the process of expunging the records of those harmed most by The War on Drugs, and end evictions and firing due to a previous cannabis conviction or current cannabis consumption. First introduced in 2019, the House of Representatives passed an amended version of the MORE Act earlier this month and everyone on the internet has been in a spell of excitement.
It’s Passed The House, Now What?
It’s important to remember that until H.R. 3884 reaches the Republican-led Senate floor, where it will likely meet opposition, it’s just a bill hanging out on Capitol Hill and is not the USA decriminalizing cannabis. Just like over 8,000 other bills in 2019 alone. And, unless Democrats obtain the 2 remaining Senate seats in Georgia’s special election next month, the bill is likely at the end of its still historical road.
If Democrats win those two seats, decriminalized cannabis is coming to a state near you! If you’re in one of the remaining 6 states who lack state-sanctioned medicinal or recreational cannabis laws, the MORE Act might be your only hope. For Americans in Alabama, South Carolina, Idaho, Kansas, Wyoming and Tennessee, crossing state lines or relying on the illicit market remains your only option in accessing cannabis.
Amendments to the Act
First written in 2019 and originally set to arrive at the House floor in September of this year, the first draft of the MORE Act included a 5% tax intended to fund the “creation of an opportunity trust fund” that would fund the above-mentioned reparative programs and initiatives. The amended version increased this tax to 8%.
Too bad the amendment also includes revisions preventing previously convicted felons from getting a regulated cannabis business license. Some say the amendments roll back years of advocacy work; a move seen as a perpetuation of criminalization. Another amendment that’s a majority of praise is the addition of language requiring a study of the benefits of medical cannabis for veterans, a move veteran advocates are celebrating.
Progress Versus Problematic
With all the praise for the passing of the MORE Act, there are still distinct hurdles. We can talk about problematic versus progress all day, but until the bill reaches the Senate floor and passes, The act is nothing but just that, progress. Progress 50 years in the making, but progress nonetheless.
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