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U.S. House Passes MORE Act To Decriminalize Cannabis at the Federal Level

This Friday, cannabis advocates can rejoice that federal legislation is moving to make it legal to use marijuana at the federal level. It would be a huge step forward for all of us. H.R. 3617, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. 3617, in a floor vote Friday. It’s the second time the House approved the bill as the historic piece of legislation makes its way to the Senate.

A majority party-line vote of 220-204 was required to approve the MORE Act. A previous version of the bill was approved in December 2020—also on a mostly party-line vote—which was the first comprehensive cannabis policy reform legislation to receive a floor vote or be approved by either chamber of Congress.

The MORE Act would allow states to legally legalize marijuana markets, without federal interference. The MORE Act would allow for expungement and resentence of nonviolent federal cannabis convictions.

It would also promote diversity in the cannabis industry at the state level, and help repair the disproportionate harms caused by America’s War on Drugs. The Act, if it is passed by Congress, will increase federal tax revenues by more than $8 billion in a 10-year time period, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. It would also dramatically reduce federal prison cost.

Chronic NewsMany statements have been obtained from national leaders of marijuana organizations.

“At a time when the majority of states regulate marijuana use and when the majority of voters of all political ideologies support legalization, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective for federal lawmakers to continue to support the ‘flat Earth’ failed federal prohibitionist policies of the past,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told High Times. “It is time for members of the Senate to follow the House’s lead and take appropriate actions to comport federal law with majority public opinion and with the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status.”

“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.”

Fox succeeded Justin Strekal (NORML staffer) last January and assumed the position of political director. Federal legislation is already moving quickly.

“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,” Fox added. “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.”

Others agreed with the importance of this legislation. The US Cannabis Council (USCC) is a leading force for ending federal prohibition—particularly creating an equitable and values-driven cannabis industry, which is one of the defining factors between the MORE Act and similar legislation.

“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,” USCC CEO Steven Hawkins said in a statement sent toChronic News. “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.”

Hawkins recognizes, however, the difficult battle that bill will have to face.

“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,” Hawkins said. “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.”

Now, the bill heads to Senate for 60 votes in order to be approved. Although there is no companion bill currently in the Senate at this time, Majority Leader Schumer together with Senators Booker & Wyden will likely introduce comprehensive cannabis reform legislation within the next month.

“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.”

It is not the only federal law moving forward. The Senate approved the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act on March 24, 2022. The current version CMRE Act streamlines the process of applying for research grants, allowing researchers to focus on cannabis and press the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) in developing and promoting cannabis-based pharmaceuticals.

Additionally, Senator Nancy Mace also introduced the States Reform Act. Some advocates think it has greater chances of passing the Senate. Others disagree.

There are 10 Republican Senators needed for the MORE Act to be passed by the Senate. Some worry that it will not make it past the finish line. One of these people is George Macheril (CEO of Bespoke Financial), a cannabis lender. “While the House vote on the MORE Act is expected to pass again, we see this as more of a symbolic gesture which will have very little chance of surviving the Senate,” Macheril told Chronic NewsApril 25, 2005