In a 24-10 vote, this morning, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would effectively end marijuana prohibition. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, or H.R. 3884, was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman, and New York Democrat, Jerrold Nadler and currently has 55 cosponsors. This is the first time that a congressional committee has approved a bill to make cannabis legal.
The vote saw two Republicans, Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Tom McClintock (R-CA), join their Democratic colleagues in support of the bill.
The MORE Act would federally decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, and would require the expungement of past federal cannabis convictions. The bill would establish a Cannabis Justice Office to administer a program to reinvest resources in the communities that have been most heavily impacted by prohibition, funded by a 5% tax on state-legal cannabis commerce. It would also allow the Small Business Administration to provide loans and grants to cannabis-related businesses and support state and local equity licensing programs, and would permit doctors within the Veterans Affairs system to recommend medical cannabis to patients in accordance with applicable state laws.
The panel’s chairman did acknowledge however that even with the historic vote, and growing bipartisan support, the MORE Act could be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“The Senate will take its own time, but then the Senate always does,” said Nadler. “The energy and the political pressure from the various states is growing rapidly. The Senate is subject to that, too. We’ll accomplish this.”
Executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Aaron Smith, noted, “Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered.”
“Thanks to the diligent efforts of advocates and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, we’ve seen more progress in this Congress than ever before. Supermajority public support for legalization, increasing recognition of the devastating impacts of prohibition on marginalized communities and people of color, and the undeniable success of state cannabis programs throughout the country are all helping to build momentum for comprehensive change in the foreseeable future.”
A Pew Research Center survey released last week showed record support for making