On December 4, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2020 (the “MORE Act”) by an overwhelming majority which represents a huge step forward for advocates of commercial federal legalization of cannabis products.
Ultimate passage of the act – which still must go to the Senate and then to the White House – would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under Controlled Substance Act and replace statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis.
Perhaps most importantly, passage of the MORE Act would establish a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses. Expungement would be retroactive, meaning that it would apply to “any offense committed, case pending, conviction entered . . . before, on, or after the date of enactment” of the Act. It would also prohibit the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions, and prohibit the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of cannabis-related convictions and other related events.
The MORE Act also has impacts for commercial entities engaged in the cannabis industry. It would require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees, and make Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers.
Although the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the MORE Act signifies a promising shift towards federal commercial cannabis legalization, even upon final passage of the Act, regulation and prohibition of cannabis products would still be subject to state-by-state regulation.