Legislation to end the federal ban on cannabis passed a key House committee on Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, that would remove cannabis’ classification as a Class 1 drug along with heroin and thus end the conflict between federal and state law.
“This long overdue and historic legislation would reverse failed federal policies criminalizing marijuana,” said committee chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. “In my view, criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, and the resulting collateral consequences, are unjust and harmful to our society. The MORE Act comprehensively addresses this injustice.”
Two Republicans, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Tom McClintock, D-Calif., joined all the Democrats on the committee in voting yes.
“The federal government has screwed up marijuana policy in this country for a generation,” Gaetz said. “If there has been a war on drugs, drugs have won that war.”
The committee’s other Republicans were in opposition.
“We need to spend more time considering the effect of marijuana legalization on the American public,” said the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
The MORE Act would allow cannabis operations to receive Small Business Administration loans and obtain banking services and insurance coverage, would require federal courts to expunge prior marijuana convictions, and would allow those currently under supervision to petition the courts for resentencing.
The bill also would impose a federal tax on marijuana to fund job training, drug treatment and literary programs, loans to small cannabis businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and programs to help those hardest hit by the war on drugs to enter the marijuana industry.
“The negative impacts of cannabis prohibition are far-reaching and longstanding,” said Steven Hawkins, chief executive of the U.S. Cannabis Council. “Real change requires new laws that impact everything from criminal justice and racial equity to taxation and banking.”
The vote sends the measure to the House floor for a second time. The House approved the legislation in the closing weeks of the last Congress in 2020, but the bill never came up in the Senate, then controlled by Republicans.
It was reintroduced in May. The Senate, now controlled by Democrats, is working on similar legislation.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said House Democrats should have voted on the bill before last November’s election in which they unexpectedly lost seats.
“It’s something that is popular with the public and with our base,” Blumenauer said.
But he declined to urge an early vote this time. “There’s a lot going on,” he said.