On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in a 228-164 vote. This vote marks the first time in half a century that a chamber of Congress has voted on a bill to end the federal prohibition of marijuana.
The MORE Act is one of the most robust marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. If enacted, the MORE Act would end the war on cannabis at the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act and ending criminal penalties under federal law.
Statement from Steven Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project:
“Today’s vote marks a historic victory for the marijuana policy reform movement. It indicates that federal lawmakers are finally listening to the overwhelming majority of Americans who are in favor of ending prohibition and comes at a critical time as this important measure addresses two key challenges we currently face.
“Serious criminal justice reform cannot begin in our country without ending the war on cannabis. The MORE Act would set federal marijuana policy on a path toward correcting an unfair system and help restore justice to those who have been victimized by prohibition. This legislation would also help address our country’s fiscal and economic challenges by empowering states to implement programs that can stimulate economic growth and generate new tax revenue at a time when both are desperately needed. We call on the Senate to listen to the American people and pass the MORE Act without delay.
“While the MORE Act includes many important steps toward federal cannabis reform, it falls short of a perfect bill and at least one provision can hopefully be removed before final enactment. An amendment inserted in the final days before today’s vote would empower the federal government to prevent Americans who have been charged with cannabis-related felonies from working in the marijuana industry. This policy could block many of those individuals accused of prior marijuana offenses from participating in the legal market, which will inhibit our ability to create an equitable and fair marijuana industry. The fact that it might apply to people who were never even convicted of a crime makes it particularly unacceptable.
“Not only does this requirement violate both the spirit and intent of this historic legislation, it is strongly at odds with many of the provisions contained in MORE itself, including the expungement of records and efforts to remove barriers from past convictions. While MPP strongly supports the MORE Act, we will continue working with bill sponsors, lawmakers, and allies to remove unfair provisions that perpetuate past harm.”
In addition to federally decriminalizing and descheduling marijuana, the MORE Act contains strong social equity provisions with an emphasis on restorative justice for communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition. The bill would require federal courts to expunge prior cannabis-related convictions and provide for resentencing; provide grants and funding to communities most harmed by the war on cannabis; lift barriers to licensing and employment in the cannabis industry; block federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances due to cannabis use; protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis; and allow VA physicians to recommend medical cannabis to veterans. A summary of the bill’s key provisions can be found here.
According to the latest Gallup poll, 68% of Americans support marijuana legalization. To date, 15 states have legalized marijuana for adults 21 and over and 36 states have legalized medical marijuana. On Election Day this year, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota approved marijuana legalization ballot initiatives.
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