Marijuana moves closer to becoming federally legal in US

21st November, 2019 by Owen Bellwood

The US House Judiciary Committee has passed legislation that aims to “correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies” by decriminalising marijuana at the federal level.

Cannabis-Spirits

The MORE act would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act

Despite the decriminalisation of marijuana in several US states, including California, Colorado and Michigan, the drug remains illegal at a federal level in the country.

Said to be “one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the US Congress”, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act aims to change this by removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler called the criminalisation of marijuana a “mistake”, and said law enforcement relating to the drug had been “racially disparate”.

He added: “While states have led the way in reform, our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. With the passage of the MORE Act today, the Judiciary Committee has taken long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices caused by the war on drugs and to finally decriminalise marijuana at the federal level.”

Introduced by senator Kamala Harris, the MORE Act removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, decriminalising the drug at the federal level. As a result of this move, the act requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions or conduct re-sentencing hearings.

Furthermore, the act authorises a 5% sales tax on marijuana, the money raised from which will help launch a Community Reinvestment Grant, which provides services to individuals adversely impacted by the war on drugs; Cannabis Opportunity Grant, which provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry; and Equitable Licensing Grant, which provides funds for programmes that minimise barriers to marijuana licensing.

The MORE Act must now pass through Congress and the US Senate

If passed through Congress, the act will also open up Small Business Administration funding for “legitimate cannabis-related businesses”, provide non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and will require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of colour and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

‘Now it’s up to Congress’

The act must now gain the support of the US Congress through a vote in the house, before it passes onto the Senate for further scrutiny and approval.

Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said: “With today’s mark-up of the MORE Act, the United States is coming one step closer to ending the devastating harms of marijuana prohibition, which have fallen so heavily on black and brown people.

“This legislation won’t make up for the full scale of harm that prohibition has caused to its victims. It’s not going to return anyone their lost dreams, time lost at the mercy of the criminal justice system, or the years spent away from their families. But this legislation is the closest we’ve come yet to not only ending those harms at the federal level, but also beginning to repair them.

“Now it’s up to Congress to do the right thing and swiftly pass the bill to ensure justice is not delayed a moment longer.”

The legalisation of cannabis has spread in recent years, with countries including Canada, South Africa and Luxembourg taking steps to decriminalise the drug.

Several drinks companies have explored the possibility of cannabis-infused products, with Breakthru Beverage Group investing in Canada’s CannTrust Holdings.

However, Constellation Brands, which invested US$4 billion into Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corporation, recently said it did not plan to sell any cannabis products in the US or other markets unless it is legal do so “at all government levels”.

As a result of these changing attitudes towards marijuana, SB explored the new wave of CBD drinks entering the market.

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