December 4, 2020

In an unprecedented move, on December 4, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (“MORE”) Act, which would decriminalize cannabis and expunge non-violent cannabis convictions. The legislation must still pass the Senate.

The House voted 228-164 to approve the measure, largely along party lines. This is the first time either chamber of Congress endorsed a measure to legalize cannabis. If approved by the Senate, the MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, and allow for a 5% tax on the sale of cannabis to fund the community. In addition, the MORE Act would remove criminal liability for those who manufacture, distribute, and/or possess cannabis, while removing prior cannabis-related convictions. The bill would give states incentives to enact their own reform.

In addition, the bill would change all statutory references to “marijuana” or “marihuana” with “cannabis.” To help businesses involved with the legal commercial sale of cannabis, the bill would also make Small Business Administration loans available, and prohibit the denial of federal benefits for those with prior cannabis convictions.

The timing of the MORE Act was not well-received by several representatives, as the COVID-19 shutdowns continue to cost people their livelihoods. Several representatives felt the focus of the House should be on measures to help with COVID-19, rather than focusing on legalizing the usage of cannabis.

The GOP-controlled Senate does not plan to pass the MORE Act, and while the passage of today’s bill was mostly symbolic, many are hopeful that this is one step closer to federal decriminalization.

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This article is based on the law as of the date posted at the top of the article. This article does not constitute the provision of legal advice, and does not by itself create an attorney-client relationship with Eskridge Law.