Ask Our Experts: Status of the MORE Act
Q: What is the status of the MORE Act, and how might things shake out?
By Noah Tomares, Research Analyst, New Frontier Data
A: Though the bill has essentially been tabled for the time being before the November elections, the MORE Act is poised to be a political football this fall. With both the House and Senate slated to recess for campaigning in early October, any vote on the MORE Act will be bumped until the lame-duck session following the elections.
New Frontier Data has previously detailed some of the hurdles which have stymied broader federal cannabis reform despite growing public support. While 34 states and the District of Columbia have opted to allow for and regulate the production, sale, and use of cannabis, they have done so while fully realizing that they remain at odds with federal law. Cannabis was designated a Schedule I criminal substance by the Nixon administration, defined by “high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical uses”. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, the U.S. government has spends $33 billion annually prosecuting the war on drugs. Additionally, efforts concerning the enforcement of cannabis prohibition have often disproportionally targeted minority communities.
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act directly responds to the effects of cannabis prohibition. HR 3884, which cleared the Judiciary Committee and is set for a floor vote later this month, proposes a litany of sweeping changes to dramatically realign America’s relationship with cannabis.
In brief, the MORE Act would:
- Replace all statutory references to “marijuana” and “marihuana” with “cannabis”;
- Require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees;
- Establish a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs;
- Impose a 5% federal tax on cannabis products, with revenue to be deposited into a trust fund dedicated to repairing the damage of the war on drugs;
- Make Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and services available to entities that are legitimate cannabis-related businesses or service providers;
- Prohibit the denial of federal public benefits to any person based on certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions;
- Prohibit the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws based on a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction); and
- Establish a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.
For the industry, the changes would be monumental. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, removing cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act would allow cannabis businesses to access to regular banking services, and free them from the restrictions imposed by IRC § 280E.
It seems unlikely that the current administration or the Republican-controlled Senate will be amenable to passing the MORE Act. During the Republican National Convention, the old rhetoric concerning cannabis was employed to contrast competing visions for America’s future.
On the other hand, Senator and vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris (D-CA) is the lead Senate sponsor of the MORE Act. She recently stated that a Biden-Harris administration would decriminalize marijuana and expunge marijuana use convictions.
Public opinion broadly aligns with the measure. Americans are mostly in favor of legalizing the use of cannabis. In the latest Gallup Poll, two-thirds of respondents agreed that cannabis use should be legal. A notable political divide saw just over half (51%) of Republicans supported legalizing cannabis, compared to more than three-quarters of Democrats (76%) and two-thirds of Independents (68%).
Less than two months before a consequential national election, the legal cannabis industry is at an inflection point. Not only are multiple states advancing medical or adult-use ballot initiatives, but the MORE Act represents a seismic shift on the federal level.