Ever since the Controlled Substances Act was voted law in 1970, cannabis has been classified as a Schedule I drug on a federal level. Alongside drugs like heroin, MDMA, and LSD, cannabis has remained under this category for the past 50 years — but that may finally change.
This September, the House of Representatives will vote on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act — a.k.a., the MORE Act. The MORE Act, first introduced by Representative Jarrold Nadler (D-NY) with a companion bill by Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), would declassify cannabis as a Schedule I drug and remove it entirely from the Controlled Substances Act, a groundbreaking concept for the cannabis community. Additionally, the Act will work to expunge some cannabis-related criminal records and legalize cannabis on a federal level (although it will still be up to the states to determine legality within their jurisdictions).
Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs that are classified as Schedule I are defined as having no medical benefit, with a high potential for abuse. When the CSA was passed half a century ago, “reefer madness” stigma and paranoia about cannabis was at a fever pitch. Increasing presence of and demand for medical cannabis throughout the nation within the last decade has led to a greater debate over whether cannabis should remain a Schedule I substance.
Since the initial classification in 1970, no additional vote has been made toward reform. Subsequently, countless people have served time in prison over the years for something as small as having cannabis seeds on their person. The passage of the MORE Act would begin to right the wrongs committed by the ‘War on Drugs’ specifically as they relate to those with cannabis-related criminal records that have held them back from certain jobs or other opportunities.
If the MORE Act passes and cannabis is declassified from the Controlled Substances Act, it will remain up to the states to determine rules and regulations regarding the production, sale, and marketing of cannabis products.
There are currently 11 states with fully legal adult-use cannabis markets, and only eight states with no form of legal cannabis — medical or otherwise. The remaining states have laws everywhere in between, from medically-prescribed CBD-only products to full medical access with decriminalized adult-use permissions. The MORE Act may encourage these states to swing further in the direction of full legalization.
The MORE Act will also have a revolutionary effect on the Veterans Administration, finally permitting its physicians to make medical cannabis recommendations to any qualifying veteran who resides in a legal state.
Additionally, the Act will allow the Small Business Administration to support businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the legalization process by establishing social equity programs — the first bill to do so. The Act will also set the federal tax at five percent, with all proceeds going toward expungement funding and cannabis research, which has been severely lacking throughout the years due to the plant’s federal status.
If passed, the bill will be accompanied by the creation of the Cannabis Justice Office, the first federal office dedicated to addressing cannabis-related issues. However, the bill will still have to make it through the Senate to determine whether the MORE Act will become law.