Marijuana Laws: Everything You Need to Know about the MORE Act

Soft Secrets
22 Sep 2020

We dearly need new laws on marijuana, and this bill could be a game-changer.

It's everywhere in the news. In the past few weeks, there has been a lot of buzz about The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, or the MORE Act, which should effectively remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act. The U.S. House of Representatives was expected to vote on the Act this September; however, the much-anticipated moment has been postponed after Election Day.  You may ask, why is the MORE Act a big deal? It's a big deal since it would be for the first time since 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act was introduced, that a Congressional chamber is taking steps to improve the status of marijuana as a substance. If the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 classified cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, for which you can be criminally charged, the MORE Act asks to declassify marijuana as such.  Other benefits of the MORE Act would include expunging individual criminal records and creating funds for victims of The War on Drugs, the impact of which has been reprehensible.  While the vote is not to resolve all issues related to the free use of cannabis, its impact would be historical, and it's meaning ought to take a special place in the history of marijuana laws. 

Where are we now, and where the MORE Act should lead us?

Currently, 33 US states plus the District of Columbia regulate the cultivation, sale, and use of medical cannabis and cannabis-infused products. Only 11 states further allow possession of cannabis for recreational use, out of which 10 regulate recreational cannabis sales. However, regardless of any state-level legislation that enables access to pot, the federal law says that cannabis falls in the same group of substances such as heroin, i.e., perceives it as an illicit substance. Such a discrepancy between the state and federal law is a source of enormous stress for state-licensed cannabis businesses. There are various implications of the disparity. For instance, the current cannabis classification as an illegal drug disables businesses' regular access to banking or small business loans. Add to that the omnipresent fear that someday federals will knock on your door and prosecute your business.
marijuana laws
A 24-year-old woman using smokable cannabis to alleviate symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director of NORML, one of the advocacy groups which has worked diligently to gain political support for the MORE Act, said: "Passage of the MORE Act is essential in order to truly right the wrongs of federal marijuana criminalization, and to once and for all allow the majority of states that have legalized cannabis for either medical or adult-use to embrace these policies free from the threat of undue federal prosecution or interference." Needless to say, gaining amen from Congress is an arduous journey. Over the past decade, less than 5% of bills or resolutions proposed to the Congress were made into laws. Passing marijuana laws at the federal level is deemed even more difficult since there is a clash of opinions on the use of marijuana. Even when its medical benefits have been times and times demonstrated. Regardless of the difficulty, pursuing legislative action by the federal government is the most feasible path that marijuana advocates can push forward. There's no easier way around it.

What are the benefits of voting the MORE Act?

Various marijuana-related reform bills sit in the Congress, but out of the bunch, the MORE Act is deemed to be the most essential and most well-defined laws of all. Critically, The MORE Act vows to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, therefore providing authorities of individual states the full responsibility to shape their policy on cannabis, without the enduring conflict between state and federal law. Breaking such a legal barrier opens the floor for a better justice system, financial opportunities, and more significant industry shifts. The MORE Act encourages states to introduce and strengthen expungement policies, thus helping thousands of low-level cannabis convicts restore their social standing in society, end the stigma related to their record, or regret caused by missing professional opportunities because of it.
marijuana laws
According to a recent ACLU report, Black Americans are 3.6 times more likely to be taken to custody for cannabis-related crimes than white Americans.
Finance and industry-wise, The MORE Act aim to improve access to funds and opportunities for new and emerging businesses. De-scheduling would grant cannabis companies access to regular banking services and end the biased tax treatment under IRC § 280E. According to, IRC § 280E was enforced in the early 1980s to deny the deduction of business expenses for illicit operators selling drugs on Schedules I and Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. The MORE Act's impact could be even more significant, as the price of cannabis may drop while the presence of more businesses automatically means more competitiveness.  "Existing businesses, designed to operate under the current legal framework in states, could find it hard to compete in the event of federal legalization," writes, hence the need they adapt fast once the change unfolds.  In addition, the legislation may bolster cross-border business. If, until now, companies were able to cultivate and sell cannabis within their state's border, in the future, they may perform operations between states, too.  The MORE Act would further impose a federal excise tax on marijuana at a rate of 5 percent.  Last but not least, the Act would allow veterans to obtain medical cannabis recommendations from their VA doctors. 

What is the political dimension of the vote?

The vote on the MORE Act would require the 'yes' or 'no' of the more than 400 members of the House. Following the vote, the public will have a clearer picture of who's in favor of cannabis legislation at the federal level and who's not. The information may influence both voters and political campaigns in future elections. The MORE Act was first introduced in 2019. Last August, Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden chose California Senator Kamala Haris as his running mate, who's actually the lead sponsor of the MORE Act in the Senate. The Marijuana Justice Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Drug Policy Alliance, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Veterans Cannabis Coalition are among those who also support the MORE Act.
marijuana laws
As a substance, marijuana is way less harmful than tobacco or alcohol, both of which are legal.
According to national polling data from the think-tank Data for Progress, the percentage of likely voters in favor of the Act hits 62%, including Democrats and Republicans. However, there are still figures in the House that may want to put brakes on the modernization of marijuana laws nationwide, like Speaker Mitch McConnel.

Why was the vote delayed?

When the vote was delayed on Monday, 21st September, or taken off the schedule, various comments followed. According to the Hill, moderate Democrats expressed concerns about voting on the measure before finalizing coronavirus legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, who took the MORE Act off the schedule, said Democratic leaders remain "committed" to vote on the legislation before the end of 2020, reports the Hill. "Right now, the House is focused relentlessly on securing agreement to stave off a damaging government shutdown and continuing to do its job addressing the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. "Later this autumn, the House will pass the MORE Act with strong support as yet another crucial step toward making our justice system fair for all Americans," he said.
According to polls, more than half of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana.
However, some progressive Democrats clearly expressed disapproval on the postponement. "I feel like the impulse to delay the expungement of people's records is a fear-based response to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnel and the Republican Party. And I personally don't think that we should be governing that way," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, said. "I don't think that when Democrats have power, like a House majority, that we should be drafting our agenda based out of fear of Republicans," she said. If and once the bill passes the House, it faces more grilling in the Senate. At current, polls suggest that over half of Americans support the legalization of cannabis and more relaxed marijuana laws. It's high time the substance was de-scheduled and decriminalized at the federal level.
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