House passes MORE Act, legislation faces an uphill battle in Senate
On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act in a 220-204 vote.
The MORE Act was passed last year in the House as well, but failed to gain any traction in the Senate. The bill would end federal prohibition of marijuana by removing it from the list of banned controlled substances.
This year’s version of The MORE Act was introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York. The bill would not make cannabis legal in every state, instead, it would end the federal restriction of cannabis, enabling states to legalize or restrict cannabis as they see fit.
“It is long past time to end cannabis prohibition and today’s vote is an acknowledgment that federal policy must and will change,” said Michael Bronstein, President of the American Trade Association for Cannabis & Hemp.
Democratic Caucus Chair, Hakeem Jeffries, discussed the disproportionate targeting of Black and Latino Americans in the war on drugs, “It has ruined individual lives, ruined families, and ruined communities, particularly in communities of color.” Jeffries spoke to the need for criminal justice reform, calling the bill a step in the right direction. “It’s time to end the federal cannabis prohibition.”
In recent years cannabis as a whole has gained acceptance nationally with the rise of CBD and the federal legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Act. Currently, marijuana is legal for adult use in 19 states and for medical use in 36 states. In Missouri, the medical marijuana program now averages over $25 million in monthly retail sales. Advocates and industry professionals are hopeful for statewide legalization in 2022 with HB2704 and Legal Missouri 2022’s initiative petition perceived to be the most viable routes for passage.
Back in Washington, despite bipartisan support and a national change in perception, the MORE Act will face an uphill battle in the Senate. Last year the MORE Act floundered in the Senate. Amid a list of reasons including competing bills, perhaps the most prevalent obstacle comes in a somewhat unexpected form. Senators who have championed the legalization of cannabis, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, are set to formally introduce their federal decriminalization bill later this month. The bill, dubbed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, is more comprehensive than the MORE Act, and given Schumer’s historic position that nothing short of full legalization would be acceptable, the MORE Act could be set to see the same fate as its previous version.