The MORE Act to Decriminalize Cannabis Advanced One Step Further

It’s been a long time coming, right? This wait for federal cannabis reform. To show the tides are turning, the MORE Act, which would decriminalize cannabis, advanced one step further in Congress, bringing the US that much closer to a federal decriminalization policy. Can this bill go through?

If the MORE Act does decriminalize cannabis, the USA will be an entirely different place. But even if it doesn’t there’s still a huge selection of cannabis products, like delta-8 THC, and a number of other minor cannabinoids. This is great for everyone, especially users who prefer slightly less high, and less associated anxiety. In fact, we’ve got great deals for delta-8 THC, and many other products, so stop by, and take a look at the options we’ve got for you.

Cannabis in the US of A

Most of us know the basics, but before getting into the changes that are coming, it’s best to go over where we currently stand. Cannabis, in the United States is illegal for both medical and recreational purposes. Cannabis used to be an important aspect of American life, with hemp grown for all kinds of industrial uses, and cannabis being found in tons of medical (and non-medical) products. By the beginning of the 1900’s, the one thing cannabis wasn’t used for as much, was getting high.

Getting into the story of marijuana illegalization is certainly controversial. While some will stick to the government story line of cannabis being dangerous and in need of eradication, the other story involves different factors, like pharmaceutical companies that didn’t want to compete with a plant that could be easily grown by the people themselves, or a paper industry that saw hemp paper as competition, or a chemicals industry that felt likewise about it. When it comes to the illegalization of cannabis, these two stories run counter, but regardless of why it happened, this was the outcome.

In 1937 the Marihuana Tax Act was passed which placed massive taxes and restrictions on marijuana, making it nearly impossible to either research it, without express permission, or use personally. This wasn’t a full illegalization though. Different laws were passed over the years, leading to cannabis being put in Schedule I of the DEA’s Controlled Substances list, with the advent of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. This made all uses of it illegal, with the plant seen as having no medicinal value, whatsoever.

decriminalize marijuana

Federal vs state

Obviously, this isn’t the end of the story, as cannabis is not regulated through the constitution, giving individual states the ability to create their own laws. Not only do many states have decriminalization measures, many stemming from the 70’s when cannabis was first completely illegalized, but the majority have comprehensive medical marijuana programs, and 18 (including two of the most populous states: New York and California), allow legal recreational use, essentially 100% going against the US government.

For those who have been paying attention over the years, this has caused many problems. In the earlier days of medicinal legalizations, the federal government still targeted users, often subjecting them to criminal punishments, though they weren’t breaking state laws. It’s even seen today still. The DEA just announced intentions to expand legal cannabis cultivation in the country, but with caveats that will likely keep former cannabis cultivators who have worked legally by their own state’s laws, from having a chance to participate, since the federal government still considers their past work as criminal activity.

For the most part these attacks have lightened over the years. I expect because there’ve been too many states going against federal regulation for the US to continue attempting to punish people. And with so many states essentially flipping the bird to federal law, it’s also not surprising that the federal government has been scrambling to change directions. This is likely to save face in this changing climate of weed acceptance, where the population has been steadily, and uncompromisingly, going in the opposite direction to federal mandate.

What is the MORE act, and will it decriminalize cannabis?

The first thing to understand about the MORE act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act), or HR 3617, is that it isn’t a legalization measure at all, but is meant to federally decriminalize cannabis. It would officially de-schedule cannabis out of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances list, and seemingly off of it entirely. This would officially take away criminal penalties for certain crimes. Under the law, individual states could continue to make their own decisions concerning full legalizations in their own domains.

The bill takes a complete 180 degree turn from current policy, essentially saying that cannabis is no longer dangerous, and that it has medical value. In fact, it’s practically a legalization. This is backed up by the fact that the bill would introduce a 5% tax on cannabis products. Usually when the government expects for something not to be sold, it doesn’t attach a tax to it. After all, it means the government fully accepts retail sales if its setting up a system to regulate taxes for it. So though this bill works to decriminalize cannabis, it also clearly promotes its legal sale (and therefore use) by way of setting a taxation amount.

The tax from the products would go to fund projects for criminal and social reform, and would eventually rise to 8% from 5%. Tax money would be distributed by a newly formed agency called the Office of Cannabis Justice, which would reside within the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. At least some of the money would be used for grants intended toward communities hard hit by the war on drugs.

MORE Act

Along with this, it would prevent benefits like public housing, or other federal benefits, to be denied to those who have been found guilty of cannabis crimes. It would also keep simple possession or use acts from causing an impact under immigration laws. The new law would do what most legalization bills do, it would expunge past convictions of those who have been found guilty of relevant cannabis crimes. This means, if a person served time for cannabis, or received any kind of relevant conviction, they will no longer have to state this, as it will no longer apply. Those currently under active convictions would be able to petition the courts for a resentencing.

Another aspect of the MORE act is that it would allow marijuana businesses to apply for, and receive, small business administration loans, as well as other banking services and insurance. These are things that have been repeatedly denied to cannabis companies due to federal regulation against the drug.

The MORE act was originally introduced in 2019, and it officially passed the US House of Representatives on December 4th, 2020. This is the first time a part of congress has approved a bill that’s meant to end cannabis prohibition laws. It didn’t have time to go through the Senate though, and therefore had to be reintroduced in 2021. In order to become law, it must pass a final vote in the House – again, as well as make it through a full Senate. The MORE Act has 76 co-sponsors, one of whom is republican.

MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis gets one step further

On September 30th, 2021, the House Judiciary Committee voted on the bill, and passed it by a vote of 26-15. The House Judiciary Committee is chaired by Jerrold Nadler, who is also a co-sponsor of the MORE Act. Though the vote went mainly by party lines with all 26 democrats voting in favor, they were joined by two republicans, while 15 voted no.

As stated before, this bill passed the House in 2020 in a vote of 228-165, but since the Senate never got to it, it couldn’t be passed fully. When a new congress took their seats in January, the whole process actually started from scratch with the reintroduction of the bill. This means that though the same bill was passed in the House already, it will need to repass it again to continue.

The House Judiciary Committee, upon passing the bill, referred the bill for a vote by the entire House once again. As it passed by large margins the last time, it is expected to do okay again, even with a different configuration of congressmen due to the results of the 2020 elections. The much bigger obstacle is for it to get through the Senate. Once it passes the House again, that conversation can begin.

cannabis reform

Will the MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis pass?

This is an interesting question, and it can really go either way. It’s not shocking to understand that much of government is still going to be against such a decriminalization, especially those with more conservative mindsets. However, there’s a growing and undeniable reality about all this. Nearly every state has some sort of decriminalization, medical, or recreational policy, even if only a minor one. And the news is constantly filled with mentions of new states pushing through comprehensive medical bills, or full-on recreational ones. About half the country is already living in recreational locations.

The US government weakens itself by allowing this, and since it can’t stop it, or reverse it, or bully it, or arrest it, or even lie about it anymore, it must change tack if it wants to save face. And ultimately, this is non-negotiable. The US can’t have a federal mandate that no state will follow, so the question of ‘will a decriminalization measure or legalization measure go through soon’, has the very easy answer of ‘yes, because it has to.’

Having said that, though the walls are certainly closing in, it could be the next one and not this one. While I expect things can’t go on this way for more than another year tops, it doesn’t mean it has to be this particular bill. I do, however, think the MORE Act has a great chance of passing, even if just because of the timing.

To give an idea of how much the government does understand this, there are now states like North Carolina, where republicans are pushing legalization measures. Not because they agree, but simply because they understand that it’s what their constituents want, and that if they want to keep their seats, this is the new deal.

There is even yet another bill making the rounds in Congress, this one an actual legalization measure. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and seeks to go a step further by legalizing cannabis and instituting a federal market for it. This is more extreme, making the MORE Act slightly more likely between the two, in my estimation. That a bill has to pass soon is a fact of US federal power and control, but chances are it will be a less aggressive one. Competition between the two bills could even cause problems, though they technically do different things, and could potentially both be passed.

Conclusion

This is certainly an exciting time in the world of weed. The MORE Act might just be the ticket to federal cannabis decriminalization, and the end to restrictive and silly prohibition laws. The one thing we can be almost certain of, is that a bill of this nature will pass soon. However, for now, we’ll have to carefully watch progress to see the fate of HR 3617.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

The post The MORE Act to Decriminalize Cannabis Advanced One Step Further appeared first on CBD Testers.

New Federal Cannabis Legalization Bill Would Allow Interstate Sales

It’s not exactly a bill that everyone is rallying around, and for good reason. But should the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a new cannabis legalization bill led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, actually make it through, it would finally allow interstate sales for cannabis products, something that has been a sticking point for US legalized locations.

The new cannabis legalization bill by Schumer would allow interstate sales, which would mean a better product selection for everyone. And, of course, the general legalization of cannabis federally. But we’re not there yet, and until that happens, we’re still happy to provide you with great products like delta-8 THC, an alternate THC to delta-9, which leaves users more clear-headed and energetic, and doesn’t cause the same anxiety. While we wait for legalization on all fronts, take a look at our array of delta-8 THC, delta 10, THCO, THCV, THCP, THC-O & HHC deals, and be glad that many cannabis products are already accessible.

What’s the deal right now with interstate cannabis sales?

If you’ll notice, right now the cannabis industry in America is fractured by state. California cultivators can sell to Californian producers, and Californian producers can create products for the California market. But a California company cannot sell products either directly to consumers in another state, nor to producers in another state. This means that each legalized state functions as its own country, with its own private market.

The whole reason for this, is the discrepancy between state and federal laws in the US. The Constitution has a Commerce Clause in Article 1. This clause gives the government (Congress) the ability to regulate commerce laws between the US and other countries, as well as between states of the country, (and Native American tribes). What this means, is that if a product crosses a state line, it falls under the regulation of the federal government. So if the federal government finds it illegal…

Does this mean a cannabis company can’t exist in two states? No, luckily not. And if you’ve been to enough cannabis product sites, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t allow purchases online, but rather, allow you to find the closest location to where you are, where their products can be found. If you’re thinking, ‘I see tons of US sites selling products online with no regard to where they’re sent’, these sites are illegally operating. This doesn’t mean they can’t provide good products either, but it also means they can be dicey, might use bad ingredients, and likely have no oversite or useful 3rd party safety testing.

cannabis interstate laws

If a company does want to operate in more than one state, it must have an actual store – brick and mortar – in that location. This, of course, can get rather expensive, as many companies (in all industries) have turned to online sales as a way to avoid the cost of physical locations, which can add quite a bit of capital expense. It does seem like companies don’t necessarily need their own actual stores though, but must be aligned with a brick-and-mortar facility in order to have products sold in it.

What this also means, is that product producers who want to build vertical markets in multiple states, must have several separate markets for each of the states, rather then them all falling under parts of the same operation. If a person wants to cultivate the cannabis, produce the products, and then sell them in a dispensary, and they want to be in both Vermont and Colorado, it means having two separate operations in the two separate states, not simply one operation that just follows the individual state guidelines.

How the new cannabis bill would affect interstate sales

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act wouldn’t simply say ‘go ahead and run your companies across state lines’. Like most government policy, it would help some, while possibly damaging others. Basically, the bill would give a pretty big advantage to cannabis operators in states where the weather is good, real estate is cheap, and where the current marijuana laws in place for licensing are less restrictive. For a state like New Jersey, this is horrible. On the other hand, for a state like Oklahoma, this is fantastic.

It’s likely that a measure such as this would drive business out of places like New York and New Jersey where real estate is expensive, the weather isn’t the best for growing, and the cannabis laws are stricter. If an operator can just as easily build their business in a cheaper state like Virginia, while still having access to the markets of the whole country (or at least other legal locations), why wouldn’t they? Who would want to pay more to set up in a financially less palatable location, when they can do it cheaper elsewhere? There’s a reason that so many customer support facilities are run out of 3rd world countries.

Right now, people getting into the general cannabis market in the States must build their strategy according to the local laws. This bill would end that, making the states with less restrictive licensing laws, the much more attractive locations to base companies out of.

Why is this cannabis bill not liked?

Very few bills center around one specific topic – like interstate sales, and instead encompass tons of different provisions regarding the regulation of many aspects of a market. Opening up for interstate sales is one aspect of this bill, but the meat of the bill is that it would legalize cannabis nationwide, by taking it off of the Controlled Substances list. This comes with the removal of Section 280E from the Internal Revenue Service tax code, which would allow cannabis businesses to use the same deductions for business expenses, as other non-cannabis enterprises.

draft legislation

To be clear, what Schumer and pals put out, is really just a discussion draft, with 163 pages detailing what legal recreational cannabis could look like in America. One of the biggest detractions and points of controversy, has to do with a countrywide excise tax, starting at 10% and rising to 25% in five years time. Governments seem to be having an extraordinarily difficult time understanding that overtaxing this market means it simply will not divert as expected from the black market.

In comparison, the MORE Act, a bill that would not legalize, but which would decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, and which is focused on the social action side of legalization, would require only a 5% federal tax, which would increase to 8% over time. There are, of course, plenty of issues with that bill as well, however, the existence of both bills shows a growing awareness that a federal measure does need to be taken. There doesn’t seem to be a direct answer to the question of how many states would have to legalize in order to force a federal mandate change.

California is a good example of the difficulty of the industry from these huge taxes that raise product prices, though every state certainly charges a lot. This excise tax wouldn’t be the only tax, but rather another tax added onto other state and local taxes. In fact, officials in the industry do see this, and have already started arguing that this would be way too heavy for operators, and far too high to compete with the black market.

This tax issue, along with other elements, has led the legalization bill to much criticism from both sides – opponents to legalization (obviously), as well as activists for it. However, there are also some positive points that should be considered. For example, one thing the bill does stipulate is that, even if the excise tax is high, smaller businesses which bring in less than $20 million in yearly sales, could get (or are at least be eligible for), a 50% excise tax reduction.

This would take place with a credit. Those with over $20 million in sales would also be eligible for a partial credit on the first $20 million of yearly earnings. Anything over that mark would be hit with the full excise tax.

Has this cannabis legalization bill been officially introduced yet?

Actually no. The draft for this cannabis bill, which would allow for interstate sales, was put out by Schumer and co-sponsors Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden, July. While it was originally thought that the actual bill would be put forward by now, it seems Schumer and the rest are listening to comments on their draft, and hopefully making some updates to iron out the disenchantment on both sides.

This will go on until the beginning of September, with the new expectation being that the actual bill won’t make an appearance until a couple months after that. This is probably a good thing since it wasn’t exactly welcomed warmly, even by those pushing for legalization. Schumer, apparently, hopes it to get to the floor of the Senate for a vote by spring 2022, meaning the pace is slow on this one.

“I think it’s going to be a longer process than a lot of the industry would like and a lot of folks are expecting,” said David Mangone, the director for policy of the cannabis lobbying effort, the Liaison Group. Of course, in order for it to pass the Senate, about 10 republicans would have to vote positively, and this could be hard to come by. Mangone went on to say that he expects there will be plenty of comments on the tax issue, and that he expects changes will be made.

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One problem seems to be that the government really wants the tax revenue to cover the restorative justice and social equity provisions in the bill. While I’m not a politician, I find it frightening that taxes would be levied to fulfill something like this, with no thought as to how the taxes can effect the sheer ability to earn the revenue in the first place. If we already know that high taxes dissuade people from using the legal markets, then simply expecting that a tax rate like this can be set, and people will keep buying, shows a massive and critical lack of understanding by those whose job it is to make the laws that govern our industries.

If the concern is covering these programs, perhaps how much is being put into them, and where the money comes from, should be considered. Just like it should be considered that when trying to divert from a black market, starting with lower prices is the best way to reel clients in, even if it means raising them later. Creating that initial customer base is important. Starting with high prices will almost ensure that the industry will never succeed. So, while its great that the tax revenue is meant to fund projects, it won’t be helpful if people don’t buy the products in the first place.

Conclusion

The draft version put out of this cannabis bill, which would allow interstate sales, would never have passed, but its quite possible that a well-revised version could gain more traction. Regardless of whether it, or the MORE Act, actually do pass into law, the important thing to realize is that there are two bills for legalization/decriminalization measures in the US federal government right now. If one of these two doesn’t make it, another one will soon.

As far as Schumer’s draft bill, I believe it makes some wildly bad mistakes in taxation, and in how it presents interstate sales, but I do like that it pushes for full legalization, and the ability to have a country-wide market. How it ends up doing, remains to be seen.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

The post New Federal Cannabis Legalization Bill Would Allow Interstate Sales appeared first on CBD Testers.

Episode 367 – Are the Feds Ready for Legalization?

Heather Sullivan and first-time guest Brian Adams join host Ben Larson to talk about the just-announced federal legalization bill the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (or “CAOA”), introduced by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Marketeering Group/Flickr

New Marijuana Legalization Proposal Unveiled

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and fellow Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday unveiled a much-anticipated draft proposal to legalize cannabis at the federal level. The proposal, which is a discussion draft of a bill titled the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, was introduced by Schumer and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at a Capitol Hill press conference.

If the legislation is passed into law, marijuana would be removed from the nation’s list of regulated drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, and instead be regulated and taxed like alcohol and tobacco. The measure also includes social equity provisions that will expunge low-level marijuana convictions and dedicate cannabis taxes to communities negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.

“For decades, young men and young women, disproportionately young Black and Hispanic men and women, have been arrested and jailed for carrying even a small amount of marijuana in their pocket, a charge that often came with exorbitant penalties and a serious criminal record because of the overcriminalization of marijuana, and it followed them for the remainder of their lives,” Schumer told reporters.

Key Provisions of the Legislation

  • Under the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, the U.S. Attorney General would be directed to remove marijuana from the list of drugs regulated under Controlled Substances Act within 60 days of the legislation’s effective date. Government regulators would also create a new definition of “cannabis” under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and develop a regulatory requirement for cannabis, similar to rules that govern other substances such as tobacco. The definition of cannabis would exclude hemp, which was legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • The authority to regulate cannabis would be transferred from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The FDA would be “recognized as the primary federal regulatory authority with respect to the manufacture and marketing of cannabis products, including requirements related to minimum national good manufacturing practice, product standards, registration and listing, and labeling information related to ingredients and directions for use,” according to a 30-page summary of the draft bill, which totals 163 pages. 
  • The bill also assesses a federal excise tax on cannabis products, with rates beginning at 10% and increasing to 25% five years after the measure is signed into law. Collecting taxes would be the responsibility of the TTB, with a portion of the revenue raised dedicated to supporting communities impacted by the War on Drugs. Federal judicial districts would be required to expunge the records of nonviolent federal cannabis offenders and those currently serving sentences for marijuana crimes would be eligible for a resentencing review hearing.
  • The legislation establishes three grant programs, including one that would fund nonprofits to provide services including job training, reentry services, and legal aid to individuals impacted by cannabis prohibition. The second grant program provides funding to state and local governments to make Small Business Administration loans to cannabis businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs. The final grant program would provide funding for state and local governments to establish cannabis business licensing programs that minimize barriers for those impacted by the War on Drugs.

“For decades, our federal government has waged a War on Drugs that has unfairly impacted low-income communities and communities of color,” Booker said in a statement. “While red and blue states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind. It is time for Congress to end the federal marijuana prohibition and reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”

Although the bill would legalize cannabis at the federal level, states would make the decision on marijuana policy for their jurisdictions. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for use by adults, and 37 have laws permitting the use of medical marijuana. 

Proposal Receives Swift Response

Following the release of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act draft, which has been promised by Schumer for months, cannabis policy reform groups and representatives of the legal cannabis industry were quick to weigh in on the proposal. Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that the “days of federal prohibition are numbered.” 

“These actions by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senators Booker and Wyden reflect the fact that the supermajority of Americans are demanding that Congress take action to end the cruel and senseless policy of federal prohibition,” Altieri said in a statement from the group. “It is time for legislators to comport federal law with the laws of the growing number of states that have legalized the plant, and it is time for lawmakers to facilitate a federal structure that allows for cannabis commerce so that responsible consumers can obtain high-quality, low-cost cannabis grown right here in America without fear of arrest and incarceration.”

Ben Kovler, CEO of cannabis multistate operator Green Thumb Industries, noted that the cannabis legalization bill recognizes cannabis as a legitimate business sector and would allow cannabis companies long-sought access to capital markets and banking services.

“Cannabis continues to be disproportionately weaponized against communities of color, and we are thrilled that the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act has proposed expungement and community reinvestment measures to address the damage perpetuated by the failed War on Drugs,” Kovler said in an email. “While the bill leaves some questions unanswered, we believe it provides a tangible pathway to true federal legalization.”

Schumer acknowledged to reporters that he does not yet have the support necessary for the bill to gain approval in the Senate, saying the proposal is intended to begin the conversation on marijuana legalization. In May, a new version of a separate cannabis legalization bill that was approved by the House of Representatives last year was reintroduced in the lower chamber of Congress.

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