WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a historic bill that would federally decriminalize marijuana use.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) was approved by a 228-164 margin on Friday.
Specifically, the MORE Act would remove cannabis from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminate criminal penalties for anyone who manufactures, distributes or possesses pot.
The MORE Act, officially called H.R.3884, would also establish a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.
The MORE Act would make several other changes as well.
Under the bill, statutory references marijuana would be replaced with the word cannabis.
The legislation would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees.
The bill would establish a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs. A 5% tax on cannabis products would be imposed and require revenues to be deposited into the trust fund.
The bill would make Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers.
The MORE Act would prohibit the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions, as well as ban the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event.
Lastly, it would directs the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization.
The passage of the MORE Act marks the first time a full chamber of Congress has even taken up the issue of federally decriminalizing cannabis.
Although the House has approved the progressive bill, it will likely face tough opposition in the Senate, which is led by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Though, if Democrats are able to win the two runoff elections in Georgia, they would take control of the Senate in 2021 and the MORE Act would stand a better chance at becoming law.
Federal law still prohibits the use of cannabis, but recreational marijuana is slowly being legalized on the state level in parts of the U.S. A total of 15 states have legalized pot for recreational use, but laws about possession, distribution and concentrates differ.