Recently, Congressional Democrats reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, a comprehensive cannabis reform bill that seeks to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. The bill also aims to implement significant changes in the criminal justice system, addressing the concerns of businesses, researchers, and communities affected by cannabis prohibition.
Key Provisions of the MORE Act
- Federal Decriminalization of Cannabis: The Act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, aligning federal law with state laws regarding cannabis regulation.
- Access to Small Business Administration Funding: Legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers would be given access to funding through the Small Business Administration.
- Non-Discrimination Protections: The bill includes provisions prohibiting denial of any federal public benefit based on cannabis use or possession and prior convictions related to cannabis.
- Immigration Protections: The legislation ensures that cannabis use, possession, or prior convictions will not negatively affect immigration status under U.S. immigration laws.
Representative Earl Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, described the MORE Act as “the most comprehensive cannabis reform that has been passed by either chamber of Congress – twice.” He added that this measure explicitly targets the concerns raised by businesses, researchers, and communities plagued by the negative impacts of federal cannabis prohibition.
Addressing Racial Injustice Stemming From Federal Prohibition
One of the main goals of the MORE Act is to address the disproportionate effects of federal cannabis prohibition on communities of color. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, chair of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, emphasized that this bill would take significant steps to right past wrongs brought about by federal prohibition. “Our criminal justice system treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent,” she stated.
Potential Outcomes of the MORE Act
The Act would provide funding through the Small Business Administration to help legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers:
- Access capital and technical assistance needed for growth
- Move away from cash-based operations
Create opportunities for those disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs:
- Expunge conviction records
- Incentivize state and local governments to adopt similar expungement provisions
Implement programs to benefit communities of color and those adversely affected by the war on drugs:
- Support youth mentоrship initiatives
- Scholarship funds for low-income children in affected communities
Federal Decriminalization as a Catalyst for Change
If passed into law, the MORE Act would mark a watershed moment in the battle for cannabis reform and criminal justice improvement. By decriminalizing the possession and use of cannabis at the national level, the United States would join a growing number of countries — such as Canada and Uruguay — who have already taken this crucial step towards legislation change. This shift in policy marks an important recognition that the so-called war on drugs has yielded vastly negative consequences, particularly within communities of color.
The MORE Act shines a light on the urgency for comprehensive cannabis reform and the potential benefits not only to those directly involved in the industry but also to the broader communities affected by decades of overcriminalization. By igniting crucial conversations and opening up new opportunities, this proposed legislation aims to dismantle long-standing stigmas surrounding cannabis policy while enabling more equitable access to resources, rights, and protections for people across America.