Friday, August 19, 2022

US House Approves Bill To End Federal Cannabis Prohibition: What Does This Mean?

This is the second time in more than 50 years that a chamber of Congress has revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally prohibited substance.

By Javier Hasse

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, H.R. 3617, on Friday.

The MORE Act removes cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, allowing states to legalize cannabis, its production and sales, free from federal interference.

marijuana legalization
Photo by Olena Ruban/Getty Images

RELATED: Why Is The Co-Chair Of Congressional Cannabis Caucus Voting Against The MORE Act?

It also provides for the expungement or resentencing of people with nonviolent federal marijuana convictions, promotes diverse participation in the state-regulated cannabis industry and helps repair the racially and economically disparate harms caused by America’s past prohibition policies.

According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, passage of the Act would increase revenues by over $8 billion in 10 years, while significantly reducing federal prison costs.

This legislation had been previously approved in the House in December of 2020, but it did not receive a hearing in the Senate. This is the second time in more than 50 years that a chamber of Congress has revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally prohibited substance.

Reactions To The Passage Of MORE Act

NORML

“This vote is a clear indicator that Congress is finally listening to the vast majority of voters who are sick and tired of our failed marijuana criminalization policies and the damage they continue to inflict in communities across the nation every day,” said NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox. “It is long overdue that we stop punishing adults for using a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol, and that we work to address the disparate negative impacts that prohibition has inflicted on our most vulnerable individuals and marginalized communities for nearly a century.

“The time has come for federal lawmakers to put aside partisan differences and recognize that state-level legalization policies are publicly popular, successful, and are in the best interests of our country. Now that the House has once again supported sensible and comprehensive cannabis policy reform, we strongly urge the Senate to move forward on this issue without delay.”

Drug Policy Alliance

Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:

“Thanks to the House’s leadership, today we are one step closer to seeking justice for the countless communities that have been devastated as a result of cruel and racially-targeted marijuana prohibition. And though it will not erase the pain millions of people have experienced; restore the economic, educational and career opportunities they have been robbed of; or give them back the time they have lost with their families, passage of the MORE Act does provide hope that a better future lies ahead – one where arrest records are wiped clean, new opportunities to take part in the legal marijuana industry exist, and desperately needed resources are redirected back into the communities that have been most harmed. Now, it’s up to the Senate to finish the job – it must begin to deliver on long overdue justice to end the status quo of racist and counterproductive enforcement. With more than two-thirds of Americans in favor of reform, it should be a swift and easy choice.”

RELATED: The Downside Of Declassifying Cannabis As A Schedule 1 Drug

“We want to thank House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Reps. Barbara Lee, Earl Blumenauer, and Nydia Velazquez for their extraordinary work in shaping and advancing this bill. We also want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn for ensuring the success of this bill.”

marijuana legalization
Photo by Bet_Noire/Getty Images

CPEAR

The Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) released the following statement in response to the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passing in the U.S. House:

“This legislation contributes significantly to the debate around federal cannabis reform on the national stage. Further, it would restore communities negatively impacted by disproportionate enforcement of drug laws from criminal justice to social equity reforms.  As Congress works towards addressing the need for a comprehensive federal regulatory system, we look forward to working with lawmakers to ensure that framework is driven by sound data and research.”

BOWL PAC

“For the first time in US history, voters will be able to go to the ballot box armed with the answer to a simple question: did my Representative vote to reform marijuana laws or maintain the racist and cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” said BOWL PAC’s Justin Strekal. “With a super-majority of voters supporting legalization, the growing segment of the population that prioritizes this issue will be better equipped to defeat prohibitionists at the ballot box.”

Strekal added, “This favorable vote on the MORE Act must be seen by the Senate as a mandate to consider legislation to end prohibition with haste.”

NCIA

“With voter support for legal cannabis at an all-time high and more and more states moving away from prohibition, we commend the House for once again taking this step to modernize our federal marijuana policies,” stated NCIA Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Aaron Smith. “Now is the time for the Senate to act on sensible reform legislation so that we can finally end the failure of prohibition and foster a well regulated marketplace for cannabis.”

legal marijuana
Photo by MasterKeySystem/Getty Images

SSDP

“The passage of the MORE Act in the House is a historic moment for the movement fighting to end the War on Drugs. A simple marijuana arrest has a stunning impact on a young person’s life, reducing lifetime rate of wage growth by almost 30%. Now, the Senate must act by passing the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to end marijuana prohibition while providing restitution to those directly impacted by marijuana arrests.” Rob Hofmann, Policy and Advocacy Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

GACP

Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce Executive Director Randal John Meyer released the following statement after passage: “GACC thanks Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer, Chairman Nadler, Representative Blumenauer, Representative Lee, and our allied organizations for their effort in facilitating passage of the MORE Act. By voting to deschedule cannabis and correct the injustices of prohibition, following the ‘Blumenauer Blueprint,’ the House has laid the foundation for ending this disastrous policy.”

USCC

Following House passage of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), US Cannabis Council CEO Steven Hawkins issued the following statement:

“Descheduling of cannabis is on the march across the United States, and the House has now passed the MORE Act in two successive sessions of Congress. Today’s historic vote comes as the Senate prepares for the formal introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. Taken together, Congress is strongly signaling that the end of federal cannabis prohibition is nearing.

“There is much more work to be done before any bill reaches the President’s desk, but we are approaching the end of the cannabis prohibition era. As more states launch medical and adult-use cannabis programs, as the majority of Americans who support reform continues to grow, and as more Americans have jobs in an industry that already employs over 400,000 people, the pressure will build on Congress to act.

“Despite the April 1 timing, cannabis reform is serious business. USCC broadly supports descheduling alongside specific reforms such as banking reform, expungement and tax relief.”

This article originally appeared on Benzinga and has been reposted with permission.

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