This Wednesday’s planned Judiciary Committee vote on the far-reaching cannabis reform legislation (the MORE Act)—which hasn’t yet been officially listed but is expected to be announced on Monday according to Marijuana Moment who first reported on this story—comes about two months after the full House overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill to increase cannabis businesses’ access to banks.
On September 18, 2019, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), the Assistant Speaker of the House cosponsored the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, HR 3884, which would end the prohibition of cannabis and creates a pathway for states to implement their own reforms, and introduced legislation, the Remove Cannabis from Deportable Offenses Act to end the practice of deporting immigrants for cannabis-related offenses. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan joins Representative Debra A. Haaland, who also is sponsoring the MORE Act.
Link to the MORE Act: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3884/text
Upon introduction, Assistant Speaker Lujan said “The Trump administration’s decision to use marijuana as a weapon against our immigrant communities is despicable. The federal government should not be wasting resources to wreak havoc on immigrant families when there are children held in border camps that are desperate for legal services, hygiene products, and basic humanitarian care. Providing care for these children and families should be where the Trump administration devotes its funding – not working as a deportation force.”
Luján is also a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), which would allow marijuana dispensaries to access banking services.
There are 33 legal medical cannabis states & DC, 11 states and Washington DC have legalized cannabis for adult-use, and dozens more have passed laws decriminalizing its possession and use, including New Mexico. Despite this, federal law enforcement continues to use minor cannabis-related infractions as justification to deport otherwise law-abiding immigrants and their families.
The MORE Act addresses many of the issues stemming from cannabis prohibition, but it does not offer remedies for every issue. Instead, it takes a somewhat hands-off approach, leaving most regulatory questions up to the states.
Under the MORE Act, cannabis would be completely removed from the Controlled Substances Act, which currently classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I is the most restrictive category, supposedly reserved only for the most deadly and addictive drugs that have no accepted medical use. With cannabis off federal scheduling, individual states can decide for themselves how they’ll reform their cannabis laws, if they reform them at all.
Additionally, the MORE Act is the first piece of federal legislation that would establish social equity programs for cannabis entrepreneurs, and it would enact wholesale expungements of prior low-level weed offenses for federal convicts. Convicts currently serving time in federal prisons for cannabis violations would receive reductions to their sentences, too.
On the business end, the MORE Act also sets a 5 percent federal tax on all cannabis sales. That’s it. There is no overly-complex, tiered taxation system that unfairly gouges cannabis consumers and companies, like what those seen in California or Colorado. The excise taxes collected would go toward regulatory oversight, funding expungements and resentencing procedures, and researching how legal cannabis will affect the population at large.
By cosponsoring the MORE Act, Assistant Speaker Lujan becomes the most senior member of the House of Representatives to endorse legislation to end federal cannabis criminalization.