Last Friday, April 1, 2022, the U.S. House of Representative passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill that would end the federal prohibition on cannabis by removing it from the list of controlled substances. This is the second time the bill passed the House. Now, the Act moves to the U.S. Senate where it is sure to have some difficulty.
The MORE Act was introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York. It passed the House 220 “yea” votes to 204 “nay” votes. Currently, cannabis is legal for adult use in 19 states and for medical use in 36 states. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, this bill would end the federal ban, but leave legalization up to the states.
The MORE Act does not have overwhelming bipartisan support, with only 3 Republican representatives backing the bill, and will face certain opposition in the Senate.
Aside from the opposition, the Senate has its own comprehensive bill, the Cannabis Administrative and Opportunity (“CAO”) Act, spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The CAO Act is set to be reintroduced this coming month, following several months of public comments and revisions. The competing interests of these 2 bills could create an unnecessary deadlock, potentially leaving the cannabis industry with another year of failed reforms.
There are many opinions from cannabis activists, industry professionals, and enthusiasts about the MORE Act, and two that we especially must consider before we decide whether or not we support it. Both ACHEM and CRCC are composed of thought leaders and true advocates of the cannabis plant, the people who consume it, and for those who have been most impacted by the racist criminalization of cannabis and the overall war on drugs.
Here are what their leaders had to say after receiving the news that The House of Representatives had passed the MORE act last week….
Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition
“Today, the MORE Act passed for the second time, but we have more work than ever up ahead. Compared to its first historic passage in 2020, today’s margin of victory decreased, which forewarns of challenges in the Senate. More concerning, the remarks from the bill’s opposition, including representatives from mature legal states such as Oregon, focused heavily on stereotypical exaggerations of the illicit market as a cartel-led sinister entity. As part of a workgroup focused on federal legalization, CRCC has been vocal about the regulatory challenges at the state and local level, specifically addressing the negative community impact of law enforcement’s use of cannabis criminalization as a tool for oppressive, racially-biased over-policing. To that end, the MORE Act is aligned with our Principles of Governance and Policy, specifically in ending criminal penalties for the possession and use of cannabis. Public policies need to reflect that cannabis is an effective option for a variety of health conditions. Protecting consumers from prosecution is the first place to start. While essential, it alone cannot address decades of discriminatory enforcement and propaganda referenced on the floor of Congress today. Ending the war on drugs also means adopting progressive and noncriminal regulatory strategies rather than relying on law enforcement. It’s clear that, re-educating federal legislators and agencies will be critical to the country’s comprehensive reform. Until they understand the plant’s value and benefits, federal legalization will be a difficult hurdle.”
– Dasheeda Dawson, Founding Chair, Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition (CRCC), and City of Portland Cannabis Program Manager
Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine
“The MORE Act passes the house again, proving Congressional interest and a political will for comprehensive cannabis policy reform in the United States. The Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine (ACHEM) acknowledges this precedent but must recognize that cannabis is always medicinal, and often missing from federal cannabis legislation is mention of rights and protections for patients and healthcare providers, and the institutional reform necessary to prepare students and professionals in medical fields to care for people who consume cannabis, and to protect patients and consumers from ongoing discrimination for their use. Not only this, but holistic and rational legislation must be impactful and centered in health equity–ensuring that all aspects of legalization and regulation improve access to wellbeing in the communities most negatively impacted by prohibition. Because the MORE Act is silent on these issues, ACHEM looks forward to engaging with Congressional leadership with key recommendations that promote patient protection, professional proficiency, institutional competency and reform, and broader efforts to achieve health equity.”
– Dr. Rachel Knox, MD MBA, Chair of the Association for Cannabis Health Equity and Medicine (ACHEM)