U.S. House Judiciary Committee Advances A Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana Nationwide

by Nathan Yerby |  ❘ 

The MORE Act To Decriminalize Marijuana Moves To A Full House Vote

On November 21, the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill which would decriminalize marijuana under federal law. The members of the Judiciary Committee voted on the MORE Act largely along party lines, with twenty-four members in favor and ten opposed. Of the 34 members of Congress who participated in the Committee vote, two Republicans voted with twenty-two Democrats to present the bill to the full House of Representatives for consideration and debate. The MORE Act is the first cannabis-decriminalization bill which has ever survived review in a congressional committee.

What Are The Provisions Of The MORE Act?

The MORE Act is a bill “to decriminalize and de-schedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses, and for other purposes,” according to the text of H.R. 3884, as the bill is called in the House.

The Controlled Substance Act currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, an illegal drug which poses high risks for abuse and lacks medical value. Heroin, Ecstasy, mescaline, and LSD also belong to this category. The MORE Act would completely remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. In other words, marijuana would no longer be illegal at the federal level, and states would have the final say over marijuana policy within their borders. Medical marijuana is already legal in thirty-three states and recreational marijuana is legal in eleven states. With federal decriminalization, the Department of Veterans Affairs would be able to allow doctors at VA hospitals to prescribe medical marijuana to wounded veterans anywhere in the country.

As part of an effort to correct disproportionate sentencing and alleviate burdens on the criminal justice system, the MORE Act would require federal courts to expunge marijuana-related convictions. “For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said in a statement to the Judiciary Committee. “Whatever one’s views on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating users at the federal level is unwise and unjust.”

The bill also calls for the establishment of a Cannabis Justice Office to administer an Opportunity Trust Fund through a tax on marijuana sales in states where the drug is legal. The purpose of the fund is to support communities which the bill’s sponsors say laws against marijuana have unfairly impacted.

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Will The Bill Become A Law?

To become law, the MORE Act will have to pass the House of Representatives and the Senate and then be signed by the President. In the House, fifty Representatives have co-sponsored the MORE Act since Rep. Nadler introduced the bill to the Judiciary Committee on July 23.

That same day, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the MORE Act to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the Republican-controlled upper chamber of Congress is less likely to approve the bill. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already expressed his opposition to marijuana legalization. So has President Donald Trump, who would likely veto the MORE Act if it reached his desk. Therefore, the MORE Act will not likely become law this year or next year, even if the bill passes the House.

However, more Americans than ever favor legalizing marijuana. Some surveys indicate that as many as 65% of Americans would support the passage of the MORE Act or similar legislation. Every Democratic contender to challenge President Trump in next year’s presidential election is also in favor of decriminalizing cannabis.

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Nathan Yerby

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  • Nathan Yerby is a writer and researcher. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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