The MORE Act of 2019 is a piece of legislation seeking to decriminalize marijuana at a federal level. With explicit social justice goals, the MORE Act aims to rectify unjust drug policies which for decades have disproportionately punished communities of color across the United States.
The MORE Act is gaining support from largely democrat legislators, however at least two republicans have shown their support as well. Still, many hurdles must be overcome if the bill is to be signed into law. This article will give a brief overview of what the MORE Act is, who supports it and what’s needed for this bill to become enacted by the U.S. federal government.
What Is The MORE Act of 2019?
The MORE Act stands for the Marijauana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. Originally introduced in 2019, the Act seeks to decriminalize and deschedule marijuana at a federal level. It has been hailed as revolutionary since it prioritizes criminal justice reform associated with cannabis-related crimes. This, coupled with the fact that demand for legal marijuana is growing by the year, makes it little wonder that the initiative has gained support.
What Does The MORE Act of 2019 Do?
The MORE Act would remove marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule 1 Drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, plants with more than a 0.3% concentration of THC, the psychoactive endocannabinoid responsible for producing “highs”, are considered Schedule 1 drugs, meaning the government views them as risky and with no medical benefit. Legalization activists argue marijuana should never have been schedule I in the first place. Industrial hemp plants – which contain less than 0.3% THC – are already legal at a federal level thanks to the 2018 version of the Farm Bill.
Once weed is decriminalized at the federal level, individual states would have free reign to apply legislation at their own discretion. In some cases, this may pave the way towards total legalization. In other states, restrictions may hold in place.
Another important aim of the MORE Act is to bring restorative justice to communities of color. One way the MORE Act would do this is by enacting expungements, meaning erasing criminal records, for individuals charged with small weed-related offences. Convicted felons currently incarcerated in federal prison for marijuana-related offences would receive sentence reductions as well. These steps will help undo decades of unjust policing and enforcement actions which unfairly target people of color, particularly young Black men.
Additionally, the MORE Act would roll out social equity programs. A community reinvestment fund, generated by a five percent tax on cannabis sales, would be established to support unfairly targeted communities. The Act would also help provide small loans to economically and socially disadvantaged people who own cannabis businesses.
Additionally, the MORE Act also contains a section pertaining to immigration issues. Currently, a marijuana-related offence can qualify an immigrant for deportation. Decriminalizing weed would save many people from facing deportation.
Who Introduced The MORE Act?
The MORE Act was introduced by Representative Jarrold Nadler (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) on July 23, 2019.
As of July 2020, the bill has a total of 76 co-sponsors, almost all of them Democrats, including Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). For a full list of cosponsors, click here.
Who Voted For The MORE Act?
On November 20, 2019, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted to pass the MORE Act out of committee by a margin of 24-10. The decision helps pave the way towards a full floor vote. Though largely supported by Democrats, two Republicans – Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) also voted in support of the bill.
Was The MORE Act Passed?
The MORE Act passed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, however it has not yet been signed into law. First it must make it to the House floor for a general vote. After that, it must make its way through the Senate, before winding up on the President’s desk for signing.
MORE Act 2019 Next Steps
Although the MORE Act cleared the House Judiciary Committee, it faced significant opposition. Republican members pushed for a piece of bipartisan cannabis legislation instead, called the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act. This bill would allow states to enact their own cannabis policies and exempt individuals or corporations involved in cannabis-related activities from federal enforcement, so long as they are in compliance with state law. However, the STATES Act doesn’t seek to repair damage wrought by the war on drugs, nor does it deschedule marijuana at the federal level.
In June 2020, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) circulated a sign-on letter urging fellow legislators to support marijuana decriminalization and the MORE Act. The letter emphasizes that 93% of voters under the age of 30 support the act and states the “cannabis reform train has left the station”. In the wake of Spring 2020’s protests against racism and aggressive policing, the political climate may be more favorable for the MORE Act in the future. However, some observers don’t think the Republican-controlled Senate would pass it.
Though there is still uncertainty as to whether the MORE Act will become law, the spirit of the bill and the sweeping reforms it seeks to make are increasingly supported by both legislators and the public alike.