A key chairman plans to reintroduce a bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity in the industry as early as next week in the House, and its text will contain at least two notable changes compared to the last version of the legislation, Marijuana Moment has learned.
The news comes as advocates eagerly anticipate the filing of a separate cannabis reform bill being planned by Senate leaders.
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), cleared the chamber in a historic vote last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control. According to an email thread from advocacy groups that Marijuana Moment obtained, it’s set to be refiled as soon next week with some new provisions.
Four sources familiar with the strategy also said their understanding is that Nadler plans to introduce the revised legislation ahead of Congress’s Memorial Day recess, though a spokesperson in the chairman’s office was not able to confirm details by press time.
The new bill will not include language that was added just before last year’s House floor vote that would have prevented people with previous cannabis convictions from obtaining federal permits to operate marijuana businesses. That was a contentious provision that appeared at the last minute and which advocates strongly opposed.
And whereas the the prior version of the MORE Act contained language to help economically disadvantaged people enter the legal marijuana market, that language is being revised to extend Small Business Administration (SBA) aid—such as loans, financial literacy programs and job training—to help people who have been harmed by the war on drugs pursue business opportunities in any industry, not just cannabis.
While advocates are encouraged by the revisions, there are still additional components they hope to see changed as the bill goes through the legislative process. For example, they also took issue with provisions added to the MORE Act prior to last year’s vote that would have stipulated that cannabis can still be included in drug testing programs for federal workers.
While Marijuana Moment’s sources all confirmed that the current plan is for Nadler to refile the bill in the coming week, the planned reintroduction has been previously pushed back and so it’s possible that it could be delayed again.
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It’s been two months since Nadler first announced his intent to reintroduce the MORE Act, which would federally deschedule marijuana on a retroactive basis and allow those with prior cannabis convictions to have their records expunged.
“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health,” the congressman said at the time. “Whatever one’s views are the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, usage arrests prosecution and incarceration at the federal level has been both costly and biased.”
“I’ve long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws is only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senate leadership is also preparing to file legalization legislation that’s anticipated to include similar social equity components.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) have been working on the bill in recent months, and Wyden said on Wednesday that it will be introduced “very soon.”
Schumer has said that the proposal they’re working on will “ensure restorative justice, public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations.” He also made a point in March to say that it will specifically seek to restrict the ability of large alcohol and tobacco companies to overtake the industry.
Instead, it will prioritize small businesses, particularly those owned by people from communities most impacted by prohibition, and focus on “justice, justice, justice—as well as freedom,” he said.
On the House side, a bill to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses from being penalized by federal regulators has already been approved this session. The chamber cleared marijuana banking legislation three times last Congress, only to see it die in the Senate, which at the time was under Republican control.
Separately, a proposal to federally deschedule marijuana that does not include social equity components was recently filed by a pair of Republican congressmen.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.