The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill this week that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 (“MORE Act”) was passed 24-10 after more than two hours of debate and now makes its way to a full House vote. Below is a brief summary of the Act’s major provisions and what reforms it may create.
Decriminalization and Data Gathering
Most notably, the Act would decriminalize marijuana by ordering the Attorney General to finalize a rule that would remove marijuana and THC from the schedules of controlled substances, which in turn would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The Act also directs the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly compile, maintain, and make public data on the demographics of individuals who are business owners in the cannabis industry and individuals are who employed in the cannabis industry. For far too long, marijuana businesses and employees alike have operated in an underground-like system with no official reporting and little regulation at the federal level. The data collection will include age, certification and licenses, nativity, race, school enrollment, and sex.
Taxing Marijuana Products
Another major aspect of the MORE Act is the imposition of a tax on cannabis products that are manufactured in or imported into the United States, equal to 5% of the price for which a product is sold.
Opportunity Funds and Social Equity Programs
The Act also mandates the creation of a Cannabis Justice Office (“CJO”) under the Department of Justice to monitor and administer a number of grant and community reinvestment programs. The CJO is responsible for awarding grants that provide entities with funds to administer services to individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, and includes job training, literacy programs, youth recreation, and mentorship programs.
The CJO is also vested with authority to establish social equity programs that provide economic assistance to small businesses that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. These social equity programs not only make funds available to qualifying businesses, but also provide states with money to implement equitable cannabis licensing programs that minimize barriers to licensing and employment for individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
Although the MORE Act is in its initial stages, this is the furthest a marijuana decriminalization bill has ever gone procedurally. M&S will continue to monitor the MORE Act and other marijuana-related legislation on the federal and state level and provide you with updates and detailed analysis.
* Ali Najaf contributed to this post.