The US House of Representatives has approved a bill to legalise cannabis at the federal level. Known as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, the legislation previously passed the House in 2020 before stalling in the Senate. Despite receiving this second endorsement from the lower chamber, the expectation is that the MORE Act will once again fail in the upper House.
What Is The MORE Act?
First introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler in 2019, the MORE Act would legalise cannabis by removing it from the list of federally banned substances laid out by the Controlled Substances Act. The bill also seeks to create a federal excise tax on all cannabis sales and to use the money raised to finance social equity programmes.
Among these is the Community Reinvestment Grant Program, which would provide training, legal aid and other services to people from communities that the War has negatively impacted on Drugs. On top of all this, the MORE Act aims to expunge all non-violent cannabis-related convictions and protects all US citizens and immigrants from being discriminated against for using cannabis.
Opening the floor debate before the House vote on Friday, Nadler stated that “the policy of arrest, prosecution and incarceration at the federal level has proven both unwise and unjust.” This view is backed up by numerous polls that indicate that most Americans now support cannabis legalisation, and the nation’s politicians are clearly taking their cue from the people by espousing the bill.
The vote mostly followed party lines, with just three Republicans backing the MORE Act and two Democrats rejecting it. Overall, the bill was approved by a vote of 220 to 204.
Will The MORE Act Be Passed?
Though the MORE Act has reached this stage before, it later found its progress blocked when it failed to gain the required majority in the Senate. Currently, the upper House is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, which means that at least ten senators would have to break party lines for the bill to receive the 60 votes it needs to reach the White House.
While this is unlikely to happen, the fact that the bill has cleared the House for a second time shows that the appetite for legalisation is growing. It now seems as if it’s only a matter of time before cannabis is legalised at the federal level, though whether or not the MORE Act ever makes it over the line remains to be seen.
Two rival pieces of legislation are currently working their way through the legal pipes. The Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA), for instance, was unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last July and is expected to be filed later this month. Like the MORE Act, the CAOA would remove cannabis from the federally controlled substances list and seek to prioritise individuals from disadvantaged communities over the corporate powerhouses.
Meanwhile, a Republican-sponsored measure called the States Reform Act has recently been introduced to compete with the two Democrat bills.
The existence of these rival pieces of legislation brings advantages and disadvantages. On the negative side, the fact that these three bills are backed by competing stakeholders will make it difficult for anyone measure to gain the bipartisan support it would need to clear Congress. On the other hand, however, this competition provides an incentive for the various sponsors to continually improve their respective pieces of legislation, which means we’re more likely to end up with a legalisation model that works for everyone.
For now, though, the age of federal prohibition seems set to continue – unless the MORE Act pulls off a minor miracle and gains the approval of the Senate.