In a watershed moment for the cannabis legalization movement, the United States House of Representatives on December 4th voted to remove the plant from the Schedule I list. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, also known as the MORE Act, was approved by a vote of 228-164, largely along party lines.
In addition to eliminating the Schedule I status for cannabis, the MORE Act calls for the removal of convictions for low-level offenders previously charged with related crimes. It also stipulates the creation of an excise tax meant to positively impact communities most affected by the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ while simultaneously adding special incentives for minority-owned businesses in the space.
“Federal action on this issue would follow the growing recognition in the states that the status quo is unacceptable,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., sponsor of the bill. “Despite the federal government’s continuing criminalization of marijuana, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.”
While the House vote is indeed a historic occasion, the MORE Act faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate. And while President-elect Joe Biden has stated his support for decriminalizing cannabis, the fate of the bill may lie in the January 5th run-off election in Georgia, which will determine party control of the Senate moving forward.
“The passage of the MORE Act is a great step in terms of recognizing the injustices present in the criminal justice system, but unfortunately, this is all largely symbolic as the bill has little chance of passing the Senate – until and unless – the Democrats are able to secure a majority in the Senate,” said Arun Kurichety, the chief operating officer and general counsel for Petalfast, a sales and marketing company in the cannabis sector, in an interview with CNBC. “Hopefully, this act will help continue to shed a light on reversing injustices and promote additional growth in the industry as reflected by the public support and passage of various state laws legalizing cannabis.”