The House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, effectively ending federal prohibition. The bill was passed in a 24-10 vote on Wednesday and will have the opportunity to be voted on by the Senate.
Introduced by Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), this legislation would change many federal policies regarding marijuana. First, it would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act, allowing for extensive research. Next, the bill would expunge the records of individuals with minor marijuana convictions and will introduce a resentencing process for those who are currently incarcerated. Finally, it would impose a five percent tax on all marijuana sales and use it to replenish communities that were hit by the war on drugs.
“I’ve long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” Nadler said in a statement. “The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”
Republicans against this bill suggested the bill needed more time to develop and finalize. On the other hand, the majority of democrats argued that this issue has been long discussed, and is in fact overdue. Additionally, members of the GOP attempted to instead finalize the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act. This act, however, did not remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, nor would it support any social equity the way the MORE Act does.
Now, the bill will go to the republican-controlled Senate for a final vote. More notably, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate, has long opposed the legalization of marijuana. If the bill does pass, it will change the landscape of an emerging industry.
“I don’t think a majority of the Republicans will support this bill,” said Ken Buck (R-CO). “It is even less likely that the Senate would take it up. Therefore, I would just suggest that we deal with other bills that we can get a much larger bipartisan support from.”
Hope for Legalization
Nonetheless, this bill further proves the United States is heading towards the path of federally legalized marijuana. By removing marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act, researchers will have more access to research on the drug. Additionally, this will free up an ample amount of space in the jail system. According to ACLU, marijuana convictions make up over half of all drug-related arrests. This bill will also introduce programs that will help individuals get back on their feet. Job training, re-entry services, and substance use treatment will all be brought into affected communities.
“These steps are long overdue,” Nadler said. “For far too long we’ve treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health. Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people at the federal level is unwise and unjust.”