House Set to Vote on Federal Marijuana Decriminalization

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Image: Michael Shake / Shutterstock.com

WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. House this September will vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, or MORE Act, which if approved, would end Schedule I classification for marijuana as an illegal narcotic.

“Passage of the MORE Act is essential in order to truly right the wrongs of federal marijuana criminalization, and to once and for all allow the majority of states that have legalized cannabis for either medical or adult-use to embrace these policies free from the threat of undue federal prosecution or interference,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said on the cannabis law reform nonprofit’s blog.

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The vote will mark the first time since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970, when cannabis first was designated as a narcotic, that Congress has voted whether to de-schedule a controlled substance.

Also known as HR 3884, the bill’s lead sponsor is Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former U.S. vice president Joe Biden’s pick for running mate in the 2020 election.

The legislation has more than eighty-five co-sponsors, “including Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan; Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, and caucus-Vice Chair Katherine Clark; and Committee Chairs Maxine Waters, Jim McGovern, Raul Grijalva, and Nydia Velazquez; and Cannabis Caucus co-Chairs Earl Blumenauer, and Barbara Lee.”

“Less than two years ago, we put out our blueprint outlining a path to cannabis legalization in the 116th Congress,” Representative Blumenauer said. “Now, after many months of hard work and collaboration, we finally have a chance to end the failed policy of prohibition that has resulted in a long and shameful period of selective enforcement against people of color, especially Black men. As people across the country protest racial injustices, there’s even greater urgency for Congress to seize this historic opportunity and finally align our cannabis laws with what the majority of Americans support, while ensuring restorative justice.”

If approved, it would mean a historic victory for cannabis advocates and the legal cannabis industry.

The bill would decriminalize “marihuana,” as well as expunge prior marijuana-related convictions. It also would allow a five percent federal excise tax on cannabis sales, provide funding resources for cannabis small businesses, and provide financial resources for people and communities affected by previous federal drug policies.

Additionally, the bill would allow military veterans access to medical cannabis through their healthcare providers, and would allow legal cannabis businesses in the U.S. access to banking and financial institutions—like other legal businesses—for merchant services including payment processing and business loans.

Perhaps most importantly, the MORE Act also would allow interstate transport and sales of cannabis products, opening the way for national brands to emerge.

Currently, only eleven states have legalized recreational cannabis, each with their own taxation and regulation infrastructure.

The NORML website is providing online resources for parties interested in contacting their representatives in favor of HR 3884.

“A House floor vote will put our federal lawmakers on record,” NORML’s Armentano added. “We will know who stands with the majority of Americans in supporting an end to the failed federal policy of marijuana prohibition, and equally importantly, we will know who in Congress wishes to continue to threaten the freedom and liberty of the millions of Americans who reside in states that have enacted common-sense alternatives to cannabis criminalization.”

Cannabis is currently a Schedule I drug under the CSA, included with heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), peyote, methaqualone, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“Ecstasy”).

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