H.R. 3884, or the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was passed with a vote of 228 to 164, with all but six yes votes coming from Democrats. 38 members of the House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, did not vote.
"I am extremely proud that my legislation, the MORE Act, passed in the House of Representatives today with a historic, bipartisan vote," said House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who sponsored the act.
"For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health," he added. "Growing recognition in the states shows that the status quo on this issue is unacceptable. My legislation will reverse the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and will take long-overdue steps to address the heavy toll the War on Drugs has taken across the country, particularly on communities of color."
The MORE Act will decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act. This removal will also apply retroactively to prior and pending convictions while also enabling states to set their own policies. In recent years, a growing number of states have taken action to either allow marijuana for medical use or outright decriminalize it, clashing with federal policy.
The bill would also establish a taxing system for cannabis products.
The new bill has seen the support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, but it may face hurdles being passed in the Republican-led Senate.
Critics, including those in the House, have noted that while the bill would have a positive effect, it does have numerous loopholes.
"As a practicing physician for over 30 years, this bill deeply troubles me, especially with its research implications for our youth population," said Rep. Gregory Murphy. "The bill fails to set any standards to have THC concentrates or edibles from getting in the hands of adolescents and young adults whose brains are still growing."
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical in marijuana that produces psychological it's ingested.
Murphy cited a study that said that THC could be the main culprit in psychosis and schizophrenia as well as another that linked increased psychosis to cannabis use. In addition, he also pointed out that Surgeon General Jerome Adams has stated that there are serious health risks associated with marijuana use during adolescence and during pregnancy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a shot at the bill, saying: "the House of Representatives is spending this week on pressing issues like marijuana. You know, serious and important legislation befitting this national crisis."
People in the cannabis industry have welcomed the MORE act, but, in light of its slim chances in the Senate, have called it "largely symbolic."
Arun Kurichety, chief operating officer and general counsel for cannabis marketing agency Petalfast told CNBC that the act was more a symbolic step in the right direction.
"The passage of the MORE Act is a great step in terms of recognizing the injustices present in the criminal justice system, but unfortunately, this is all largely symbolic as the bill has little chance of passing the Senate - until and unless - the Democrats are able to secure a majority in the Senate," Kurichety said. "Hopefully, this act will help continue to shed a light on reversing injustices and promote additional growth in the industry as reflected by the public support and passage of various state laws legalizing cannabis."
That said, Kurichety stated that it wouldn't just be cannabis business owners and customers who would benefit from the MORE Act if it passed. He stated that the federal government stood to lose out as well in terms of potential revenue. (Related: Almost half of Americans support marijuana legalization.)
"Absent any action, the federal government will continue to lose out on potentially millions of dollars of tax revenue and impede the creation of millions of jobs, which becomes more glaring in the midst of a global pandemic and a recession," he said.
With this in mind, he suggested that even if the bill doesn't pass, local governments would still look to pursue its legalization, stating: "that cities and states will continue to examine their laws and policies and make more meaningful change at the local level."
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