House Passes Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana – Cannabis & Hemp – United States – Mondaq News Alerts

United States: House Passes Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity
Reinvestment and Expungement („MORE”) Act of 2019 (H.R.
3884), which removes marijuana from the scheduled substances list
under the Controlled Substances Act, and decriminalizes the
manufacturing, distribution and possession of marijuana.

The bill passed largely along party lines (222 Democrats and
five Republicans voted in support, 158 Republicans and six
Democrats voted against), and represents the first time that a bill
legalizing marijuana was passed by either chamber of Congress.

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • an expungement process for low-level federal cannabis-related
    convictions and the conducting of sentencing review hearings;
  • the creation of a trust fund that would support programs and
    services for people and business in communities affected by the war
    on drugs, and the imposition of a 5 percent tax on cannabis
    products that would be deposited in the fund;
  • an end to the denial of federal public benefits to individuals
    based solely on certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions;
  • a ban on the denial of federal immigration benefits and
    protections to individuals based solely on certain cannabis-related
    conduct or convictions.

Commentary Jodi Avergun

While the historical significance of the House passage of the
MORE Act cannot be overstated, it will not be passed into law
during this Congressional term and will need to be reintroduced
when the 117th Congress is sworn in in January. Even then, the
prospects for passage are unclear at best. The Democratic majority
in the House has shrunk and control of the Senate remains up for
grabs at this point. Any Democratic majority that may result in the
Senate may not be sufficient to allow for passage of the MORE Act
even though Vice President-elect Harris, who would hold the
tie-breaking vote in the Senate, was the lead Senate co-sponsor of
the MORE Act. With 5 more states voting in 2020 to legalize or
decriminalize marijuana starting in 2021, 1 in 3 Americans will be
living in a state where some form of marijuana use is legal,
and 25 Republican Senators in the incoming Congress come from
states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana. That
would suggest a higher likelihood of bipartisan support for some
relief from outright illegality at the federal level. The SAFE
Banking Act, which provides a safe harbor from Bank Secrecy Act and
Anti-Money Laundering prosecutions for certain financial
institutions that bank cannabis funds, will also likely be
re-introduced in the incoming Congress. Its passage has slightly
better chances for passage than the MORE Act, but significant
opposition remains.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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