Historic Congress Vote Propels Cannabis Closer to Legality

Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images: Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) discusses the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act) legislation in Washington, DC this week.

By Angela Underwood

The end of prohibition may have begun today.

Wednesday morning, the House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10 on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), making it the first vote in Congress to decriminalize cannabis since prohibition began in 1934.

Nearly 100 years later, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) brought MORE, HR. 3884, to Congress and it finally worked.

“This issue is not new to Congress,” Nadler said in his opening remarks before introducing the bill. “Representative Barbara Lee has sponsored bills that are the foundation of key provisions of the MORE Act, and I thank her for her longstanding leadership on this issue.”

MORE will accomplish more than enough if passed, beginning with expungement of federal cannabis convictions, which according to Nadler, show that “the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”

To fix that mistake, Nadler said MORE will “address the needs of communities that have been most seriously impacted by the War on Drugs, including increasing the participation of minority communities in the burgeoning cannabis market.”

Some of those needs will be addressed with the 5% sales tax on cannabis directly paying the Opportunity Trust Fund. Lastly, MORE would wipe cannabis of the Schedule 1 of controlled substances, making the drug federally legal just like alcohol.

Lee tweeted her enthusiasm:

For too long, our federal cannabis policies have been rooted in the past! Proud to work with @RepJerryNadler on the MORE Act, which decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level, enacts restorative justice, and makes the cannabis industry more diverse and equitable. #WeWantMORE

Though today’s vote is historic, and should easily pass a full House vote, it will face opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate without being amended.