Today, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would legalize marijuana on the federal level, removing it from schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 passed in a 24-10 vote, setting the stage for a full floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. While the bill faces an uphill battle if it makes its way to the Senate, this is a historic moment. It marks the first time that a congressional committee has ever approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana and reassess marijuana-related convictions.
In addition to removing marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances, the legislation includes a 5% tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create a number of new grant programs. These initiatives would be targeted to support communities that have been adversely impacted by the war on drugs.
The bill directs federal courts to expunge convictions and adjudications of juvenile delinquency for any federal cannabis offenses. It also requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the cannabis industry. This is to ensure that people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are reaping the benefits of participating in the federally legalized industry.
Importantly, the bill provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use and possession. This benefits individuals who would otherwise be denied a federal public benefit (such as public housing) based on previous convictions or current marijuana use. The bill also protects immigrants who face adverse impacts under immigration laws if they are convicted of a marijuana-related offense.
Decriminalizing marijuana would open up opportunities for cannabis businesses across the country to access financial services and to participate in a number of federally funded programs. However, as we have seen with the descheduling of hemp, legalization will also create additional regulatory hurdles that compliant businesses will need to overcome.
Drummond Woodsum will continue to monitor the progression of this legislation.