What Chance Does the MORE Act To Legalize Cannabis Have of Passing?

On Wednesday, Congress is expected to begin voting on an important piece of legislation regarding cannabis—the MORE Act.

We’ve touched on the MORE Act before, and how its chances fared in comparison to its cannabis banking cousin, the SAFE Act, which received a vote on September 24, and passed with a remarkable 321 yeas to 103 nays.

By being solely about money, the SAFE Act had broader support from Republicans than MORE, which includes social justice, expungements, and legalization as its tent poles, and as such, hasn’t found much support from the GOP. I know… shocking.

If it does pass—and that remains a sizable “if”—the MORE Act would do some remarkable things. According to Merry Jane:

“[The MORE Act] would completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. The bill would also create a Cannabis Justice Office, a new division of the Department of Justice that would be tasked with providing restorative justice to communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.”

The Cannabis Justice Office would work to expunge the records of anyone with minor weed offenses and allow those who are currently behind bars for weed crimes to apply for resentencing.

Federal agencies would be prevented from denying public benefits or security clearances to cannabis users, and immigration authorities would be prevented from deporting individuals over small-scale cannabis use.

The bill would impose a five percent federal tax on all state-legal cannabis sales. Revenue generated by this tax would be used to fund programs providing job training, small business loans, and legal aid for socially and economically disadvantaged Americans.

Additionally, the bill would work to remove barriers hindering marginalized individuals from getting involved in the legal weed industry.

Those are lofty and admirable goals, and to be certain, the world would be a better place if they were to come to fruition. Although the last thing the cannabis industry needs is an additional layer of taxes, it’s to be expected that federal legalization of cannabis will come with a tax.

The proposed 5 percent tax would bring in serious money; legal cannabis sales in 2018 topped $8 billion, and are projected to hit $41 billion by 2025.

The bill is sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and it’s expected to be approved by the Judiciary Committee.

While I take no pleasure in being Donnie Downer, it seems unlikely it will get much further. Sadly, the current political climate doesn’t lend itself to supporting people or communities of color, which this bill does in a big way, and the language around preventing immigration authorities from deporting people for cannabis use won’t be well received.

Denying public benefits is a turn-on for the current administration, and having that ability compromised when it comes to cannabis won’t be welcomed.

Any legislation which opens the long overdue discussion around these issues is needed and welcomed, but the passage of this act is far from guaranteed. Still, fingers crossed.

Josh Taylor is a well-known and successful entrepreneur in the legal cannabis space, producing B2B and B2C cannabis events, "Backstage Budtending" and upscale concierge services through his companies OregonCannabisConcierge.com and CaliforniaCannabisConcierge.com. His weekly syndicated newspaper column and features about cannabis ran for five years until March 2020.

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