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Here we go again. On April 1, the House of Representatives approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act and attempt to undo the damage caused by racially and economically disproportionate enforcement of prohibition.
According to Marijuana Moment, after an hour of debate, the full chamber voted 220-204 to end federal cannabis prohibition and promote social equity in the industry. The vote fell along party lines with only three Republicans supporting the measure and two Democrats opposing it.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who sponsored the bill, opened Friday’s floor debate, calling the MORE Act “long overdue legislation that would reverse decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalization of marijuana.”
“It also take steps to address the heavy toll these policies have taken across the country, particularly among communities of color,” he continuted on Twitter. “For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health.”
Yes, this means we are one step closter to legalizing cannabis at the federal level. No, this is not an April Fool’s joke. But we’ve also been here before: The chances of it passing through the Senate are slim — again.
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Where we were, where we’re going
An earlier version of the bill was passed in December 2020 in a largely party-line vote, becoming the first comprehensive cannabis policy reform legislation to receive a floor vote or be approved by either chamber of Congress.
As laid out by National Cannabis Industry Association, revisions from last session include the removal of a provision that would have allowed federal regulators to deny cannabis business licenses to applicants who have prior felony convictions. Other changes from the introduced text this session include revisions to property requirements, allowing operators to secure those locations after receiving a federal license.
A number of amendments were offered at a Rules Committee hearing to advance the bill, however, only three were ruled in order. The first passed on a roll call vote and was introduced by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), authorizes $10M for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to conduct a study on technologies and methods that law enforcement may use to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana.
Another amendment, introduced by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA). This amendment directs the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to conduct a study on the impact of legalization to the workplace, using states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis as a guide, and requires NIOSH to develop best practices for employers as companies transition their policies related to cannabis, prioritizing employers engaged in federal infrastructure projects, transportation, public safety, and national security.
Additionally, it directs the Department of Education to conduct a study on the impact of legalization to schools and school aged children, using states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis as a guide, and requires the Department of Education to develop best practices for educators and administrators to protect children from any negative impacts.” It passed on a roll call vote.
Another amendment, which failed on a roll call vote was offered by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) would have required federal agencies to review security clearance denials going back to 1971 and retroactively make it so cannabis could not be used “as a reason to deny or rescind a security clearance.”
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What about the Senate?
“This is a historic day for marijuana policy in the United States,” says NORML political director. “This vote marks only the second time in over 50 years that a chamber of Congress has revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally controlled and prohibited substance, and has voted to close the widening chasm between state and federal marijuana policies.”
But it still has to pass the Senate, and while there is currently no companion bill ithere, Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) along with Senators Booker (D-NJ) and Wyden (D-OR) are expected to introduce a comprehensive cannabis reform bill in 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.”