Every year more U.S. states legalize cannabis, but the federal prohibition has been a constant roadblock for the cannabis industry. But that soon may change with the potential change in marijuana’s classification.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government places cannabis in the same category as heroin. That’s been true for decades, but that may soon change with the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
The MORE Act would remove cannabis from the Schedule list altogether, not just lower the classification to Schedule II as some advocates have worried over. U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) created the bill that would also decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. That wouldn’t make cannabis legal, but it would be a major win for the cannabis industry and financial institutions interested in providing services to the industry (similar to provisions in a recent bill called the STATES Act). There would also be a 5% federal tax on cannabis if it passes.
So far for the MORE Act in the House, it’s going OK. It was recently passed by the House Judiciary Committee with a 24-10 vote, and it’s possible that the Democrat-controlled House may pass the bill with amendments made along the way. Democrats have shown to be more in favor of cannabis regulation, especially in the last few years as public opinion has also softened to cannabis. While it may enjoy support in the House, the likelihood of the MORE Act passing in the Senate is slimmer.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) has blocked all cannabis reform legislation from being brought before the Senate for a vote, and he has shown no sign of treating the MORE Act any differently. Even if he allowed the debate, it’s not clear there would be enough votes. Many Republicans have taken an anti-cannabis stance and buy into the “gateway drug” perspective, or at least those have been their previous talking points. With a Republican-controlled Congress and the lack of unanimous Democrat and Independent support, there may need to be a shift in the Senate before this type of legislation goes through.
If the MORE Act does pass in the House and the Senate and gain the president’s signature to become law, there is likely to be a major change. You’ll almost certainly see a boom in cannabis stocks and a surprising number of companies from other industries who start to jump into cannabis. Passing the MORE Act would be like opening the floodgates in some respects, although states will still be able to pass their own rules and regulations and creating those takes time.
While all that sounds exciting, don’t get too wound up yet. The MORE Act’s fate is uncertain. But consider this: the fact that more and more bills are being put forward to address cannabis and are being taken seriously is a major cultural shift.
Legalization at the federal level will happen eventually, but will it be the MORE Act that does it? Tell us what you think in the comments.