With 68% of Americans, including half of Republicans, in favor of legalizing cannabis, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on April 1 to legalize it for what was the second time in history. This brings us to the MORE Act — the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act. What does this act stand for? What does it mean? And how will it impact cannabis users across the country?
The chances of it passing the Senate are thought to be unlikely, and even if it does pass the Senate, it is thought by some that President Biden might veto it. In a regular press conference after the passing of the MORE Act, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that Biden “agrees that we need to rethink our approach” to marijuana laws but declined to say if he does or does not support this bill. Nonetheless, it is also possible that he will sign the Marijuana Opportunity Act into law as if he were to veto it, he would lose even more of his younger (18-39-year-old) voters than he already has, and legalizing marijuana could help him both maintain and win back this demographic whose support he badly needs.
What is the Marijuana Opportunity Act?
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (aka “MORE”) Act would, in the bill’s own words: “…end the criminalization of cannabis for adults by removing it from the list of controlled substances, eliminate related criminal penalties, and take several other major steps toward criminal justice reform, social justice, and economic development.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who introduced this important piece of legislation, rightly described the MORE Act as being “long overdue legislation that would reverse decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalization of marijuana,” and went on to say: “It would also take steps to address the heavy toll these policies have taken across the country, particularly among communities of color.”
If the Marijuana Opportunity Act were to be passed into law in its current form, some of the key provisions it includes are as follows:
- Retroactively decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, which means that any cannabis-related arrests, charges, and convictions would be stricken from the record at zero cost to the person. (Note: This would not stop states from being able to criminalize marijuana.)
- Provide better opportunities for research and promote the economic growth of individual states.
- The creation of the Office of Cannabis Justice, which would be taxed with administering the program to ensure and enforce the social equity aspects of the law, including the reinvestment of resources in communities that have been the most impacted by the prohibition of marijuana.
- Allow for the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make loans and grants available to businesses in the cannabis industry.
- Create a 5% retail tax on cannabis products that would over the course of three years become 8%. The tax revenue generated would go to the Opportunity Trust Fund, which would include three grant programs:
- The Community Reinvestment Grant Program (administered by the Department of Justice), would provide job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, mentoring, substance use treatment, and other important services to those heavily affected by what has been a War on Drugs.
- The Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program (administered by the SBA), would make small business loans available to those in the cannabis industry who are at a social and economic disadvantage.
- The Equitable Licensing Grant Program (also administered by the SBA), would fund marijuana licensing and employment programs for those severely impacted by the criminalization of cannabis.
- Enable the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prescribe medical marijuana to patients who are military veterans in keeping with local state laws.
- Guarantee that the federal government would not be able to use cannabis usage as a justification for discriminating against individuals, especially immigrants who live with the risk of deportation.
How to Get the Marijuana Opportunity Act Passed
The Marijuana Opportunity Act will be coming up before the Senate soon, possibly even as early as the end of April 2022. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has openly said that the only way it will pass is if there is full support from his fellow Democrats and bi-partisan support from the Republican side. However, before becoming too defeated, there actually is something that you CAN do to help ensure that this important and historical piece of legislation is passed by it as the MORE Act, or the Senate-initiated Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). As a brief aside, without getting into too many details, CAOA would also decriminalize marijuana, expunge those charged or found guilty of cannabis possession or use on the federal level, and create an Opportunity Trust Fund.
I would like to end this piece by making a simple call to action to help ensure that the MORE Act is passed by the Senate and then lands on Biden’s desk to, hopefully, be signed into law. So, keep your eyes on the news and when you hear or read that the Senate will be voting on the MORE Act, email or text or call your Senator and let them know that as one of their constituents who is deciding whether you will vote to keep them in or out of office, you support the legalization of marijuana and ask that they vote in favor of the MORE Act.
Written By Kim Thompson
Along with being an award-winning creative and literary writer, Kim works as a freelance copywriter, editor, and proofreader both domestically and internationally.
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