Thursday, November 28, 2019

House committee passes cannabis legalization bill

MORE Act: Step Toward Decriminalizing Marijuana - Robert M. Kline (McDermott Will & Emery), National Law Review:

November 25, 2019 - "For the first time in American history, a congressional committee approved a marijuana legalization bill. On November 20, 2019, after more than two hours of debate, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3884) in a 24 to 10 vote. If the MORE Act becomes law, it would effectively end the federal prohibition of cannabis in the United States.

"Currently, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that the federal government considers to have no proven or acceptable medical use and a high abuse potential. The MORE Act, if passed into law, would remove marijuana from Schedule I....

"Under current federal law, doctors at the VA can discuss marijuana use with patients, but they cannot recommend it, even in states where marijuana is legal under local law.... Medical marijuana, prescribed by physicians, is legal in 33 states. But veterans can lose all VA benefits if they are found to be using cannabis, even if lawfully prescribed by a physician outside the VA....

"[T]he MORE Act also would require federal courts to expunge certain convictions for marijuana offenses, and ... create a Cannabis Justice Office focused on reinvesting resources into communities that have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition. A 5% tax imposed on the sale of legal cannabis products would cover the costs of the initiative, which would provide job training, legal assistance and treatment for substance abuse in communities most impacted by the war on drugs. If enacted, the law also would ... allow the Small Business Administration to issue loans and grants to marijuana-related businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

"Although the bill received votes from two Republicans, ... the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins (R-GA), said that the bill 'is nearly devoid of bipartisan support'.... Many Republicans in Congress recognize that federal marijuana laws much change, but they believe that the MORE Act is too aggressive....

"[T]he MORE Act still faces significant hurdles.... The bill has been referred to seven other House committees, each of which could influence the debate. Moreover, even if the bill passes the Democratic-controlled House, it is unlikely to be considered in the Senate."

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