WASHINGTON, D.C. – In what may be a historic turn in federal cannabis politics, the House Judiciary Committee today approved a bill to federally decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act.
By a count of 24-10, the committee voted in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, H.R. 3884, a bill that was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in July.
“This is a truly historic moment in our nation’s political history. For the first time, a congressional committee has approved far-reaching legislation to not just put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, but to address the countless harms our prohibitionist policies have wrought, notable on communities of color and other marginalized groups,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a statement. “Opposition to our failed war on marijuana has reached a boiling point with over two-thirds of all Americans, including majorities of all political persuasions, now supporting legalization. Congress should respect the will of the people and promptly approve the MORE Act and close this dark chapter of failed public policy.”
In addition to removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the MORE Act would impose a small excise tax on the cannabis industry in order to fund criminal expungement efforts. It also would prohibit the denial of federal benefits due to a cannabis conviction, either past or present, and cannabis convictions no longer would have any impact on an individual’s immigration status or case. Additionally, the MORE Act would enable the Small Business Administration to provide loans and grants to cannabis-related businesses and would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis to patients in medical-use states.
To further address racial inequality caused by the war on drugs, the MORE Act would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to analyze cannabis industry demographics to ensure minorities and individuals from lower income brackets are granted opportunities to participate in the industry.
Although committee approval of the MORE Act is significant, some, including National Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Aaron Smith, believe more will need to be done to correct the past errors of U.S. federal cannabis policy.
“There is still much work to be done, including the establishment of sound federal regulations for cannabis products,” Smith said in a statement. “This vote brings us one step closer to ending the disaster that is prohibition and repairing the harms it has caused while we continue the discussion in Congress about how to best regulate cannabis at the federal level. We urge lawmakers to move forward with this necessary bill without delay.”
Steve DeAngelo, noted cannabis advocate and co-Founder of Harborside, was pleased with the committee’s move, but said also that cannabis should not have been criminalized in the first place.
“The Judiciary Committee’s passage of the MORE Act, which will entirely remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, is a welcome but long overdue correction to a historic injustice,” DeAngelo told mg. “Cannabis never belonged in the CSA in the first place. Then-President Nixon ignored an abundance of scientific evidence and engineered the Schedule I designation of cannabis as part of his illegal campaign to suppress the civil rights and antiwar movements. It’s good to see history finally moving in the right direction.”