December 4, 2020

US House Progresses Bill which would Federally Decriminalise Cannabis

3min read

Conor O’Brien

December 4th, 2020


 

Last November, we reported that the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act or MORE Act had been approved by the House Judiciary Committee. Today, the MORE Act passed through the democrats-led House of representatives as expected, with 228 votes for the motion, 164 against and 39 abstaining.

The bill contains several important measures including among others;

  • Federal decriminalisation and descheduling of cannabis
  • Introduction of a federal 5% tax on cannabis products with revenues to be used for programs including increasing literacy, youth mentorship and job training.
  • Setting up a process for the retrospective expungement of criminal offences for minor crimes relating to cannabis
  • Ensuring immigrants will not be denied citizenship on the basis of cannabis related events
  • Provisions for loans to be made to cannabis operations, especially those run by socially disadvantaged individuals

Legislation catching up to public opinion 

This event comes in the context of increasing pro-legalisation sentiment in the general population of the US. During the November elections, six State ballots increasing access to legal cannabis were passed by popular vote.  For nearly ten years now, the majority of US citizens have supported the full federal legalization of cannabis for both medical and adult-use purposes. This trend is consistent across all demographics, income levels, education levels and genders, with a small hold out of mainly republican voters remaining opposed to legalisation.

This progress also comes on the heels of cannabis being removed from Schedule IV under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Substances earlier this week. The UN motion whic passed with US support means that the UN now effectively recognises that cannabis does not pose the same threat to public health as drugs such as fentanyl and heroin, and that it holds therapeutic potential.

Despite increasingly positive sentiment toward cannabis, it remains a schedule I substance under the US Controlled Substances Act, with massive implications for justice, medicine and business within the US. While most states have in some way gone against the Federal law by allowing for medical and recreational use of cannabis, medical access and the development of the cannabis industry has been hampered by the Schedule I status in the country.

Source: Gallup, Prohibition Partners

The future of the MORE Act 

Support for the MORE act has been divided down party lines, being backed by prominent Democrats including the House sponsor Jerry Nadler and incoming vice president Sen. Kamala Harris. The passing of the MORE Act through the House of Representatives was to be expected as the House is under majority Democrat control. The MORE Act will now face a more difficult time being approved by the historically more conservative Senate. The Senate is currently under Republican control, but that could change, pending the outcome of the run-off elections in Georgia due January 5th of 2021.

Whether or not the MORE Act is made law in 2021, the passing of the bill through the house represents a massive symbolic victory for cannabis advocates, this being the first time a house of the US Congress has approved such a progressive piece of cannabis-related legislation. In the wake of the EU decision not to classify CBD as a narcotic, and UN decision to remove cannabis from Schedule IV, this US House vote closes what has been one of the most positive quarters for global cannabis advocacy in recent memory.

US House Progresses Bill which would Federally Decriminalise Cannabis

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