House passes ‘historic’ MORE Act

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House passes ‘historic’ MORE Act

The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances and make SBA loans and services available to legitimate cannabis businesses.

The act would also allow legitimate cannabis businesses to access loans and services rendered by the Small Business Administration, as well as prohibit the denial of public benefits to a person based on certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions. 

Coming on the heels of what cannabis advocates are calling a historic November election, with five more states passing some form of cannabis legalization, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act that removes cannabis from the list of scheduled substances and eliminates criminal penalties for distribution, manufacturing and possession of marijuana.

The act would also allow legitimate cannabis businesses to access loans and services rendered by the Small Business Administration, as well as prohibit the denial of public benefits to a person based on certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions. Additionally, it prohibits denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of cannabis-related conduct or convictions.

If passed, the law would also implement a process to expunge criminal records for federal cannabis charges or convictions and impose a 5% tax on cannabis products, among other changes.

The bill, which passed with a vote of 228-164, is the first comprehensive piece of legislation to decriminalize marijuana to pass the full House of Representatives.

Morgan Fox, media relations director for the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), told PropertyCasualty360.com the bill had broad support, including from some conservative members of the House, and garnered more than 120 co-sponsors.

“The number of co-sponsors skyrocketed since mid-summer when discussions around social justice reforms were heating up,” he explained.

While a few Republicans supported the bill in the House, Fox doesn’t anticipate the GOP-controlled Senate to pick up the bill during the lame-duck session.

“It is certainly good news in terms of the overall progress of marijuana legalization efforts,” said Ian Stewart, co-chair of law firm Wilson Elser’s Cannabis Law Practice.

All eyes on Georgia

More than an old sweet song, as Ray Charles sang, is keeping Georgia on people’s minds in the lead up to the state’s upcoming run-off that will determine which party will control the Senate.

“The cannabis industry isn’t holding its breath until January 5, but if the Senate becomes Democratic, there is a good chance of a vote,” Stewart told PC360.

Concerning the incoming administration, while Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris has been a staunch supporter of decriminalization in California, as well as the adult-use cannabis industry, President-Elect Joe Biden hasn’t been as friendly to the notion, according to Stewart. However, Biden is open to receiving more research on the issue and has shown a willingness to reconsider his position.

Although Democrats have shown support for the issue, most conservatives are pointing out that now is not the time to take up such measures as the pandemic continues to roil the American economy.

Although it is unlikely the lame-duck Senate will pick up the bill, and chances are slim for passage in the Senate in 2021, NCIA’s Fox noted more incremental reforms could be introduced in the Senate this coming year.

“Namely The Safe Banking Act as well as removing possible barriers to research,” Fox said. “That being said, the elections really sent a clear message to lawmakers that not only are their constituents ready to support this legislation but that it is something they want.”

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