The U.S. House Pushes for Legalization
It was a great day for a practical joke, but it turns out the U. S. House of Representatives were actually feeling pretty serious on April 1st, 2022. They voted to pass HR 3384, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, also known as the “MORE Act”. Its passage represents one step closer to criminal justice reform, social justice, and economic development in the realm of federally-legalized cannabis.
The MORE Act does a lot of things. First and foremost, it would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act list of federally-banned drugs. This would “open the door to research, better banking and tax laws, and help fuel economic growth“. The MORE Act would also enact automatic expungement of federal cannabis convictions at no cost to the individual, and prevent the federal government from discrimination on the basis of cannabis use when it comes to things like federal benefits and deportation. It would create the Office of Cannabis Justice to oversee the social equity aspects of the bill, and apply a 5% excise tax to all marijuana products for the first two years, raising it to 8% by the fifth year.
Fully half of this tax would create an “Opportunity Trust Fund” to support a “Community Reinvestment Grant Program”. 10% of the funds raised would go to support substance abuse programs, and the other 40% would go to the federal Small Business Administration to support implementation of a newly created equitable licensing grant program. Marijuana producers and importers would need a federal permit and pay $1,000/year in federal taxes for each of their premises, which could also be used to fund social programs.
If you’re feeling a little déjà vu, we can assure you, you’re just a little high. This is totally the same bill that passed the U. S. House in December, 2020, but back then, it was blocked from being voted on in the Senate by You-Know-Who. And this bill may not pass in the Senate, either. The Senate has its own marijuana reform bill called the Cannabis Administrative and Opportunity Act (the “CAO” Act) that would impose a 25% excise tax on marijuana products, similarly remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, and expunge the records of people who are federally incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes.
The bills are different enough from each other that it may be difficult to get Senators and U. S. House Representatives to agree on a common path forward, but we’ll be watching the development of both avenues to full-blown legalization with great interest. Whichever one wins out—whether it’s the MORE Act or the CAO Act—it will be a great victory for legal cannabis.