MORE Act would decriminalize marijuana nationwide

Pedro Isao Mori
Staff Writer

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement, or MORE, act, which was approved by Congress and awaiting a Senate hearing, would decriminalize marijuana use, manufacturing and distribution and possession at the federal level.

The proposed law, however, stops short of legalization, allowing state legislatures the authority over marijuana legalization for medical or recreational purposes. 

One of the most significant parts of the bill is the expungement clause, which means that all people currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses would be released and their criminal records for marijuana-related offenses would be erased. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, advocates “descheduling” marijuana – in reference to the drug being a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act – and legalizing it for medical and recreational use.

“The bill also eliminates barriers to medical research, allows the VA to recommend medical marijuana to veterans living with PTSD, and it allows financial institutions to service the marijuana industry,” Nadler wrote in a recent press release.

“It provides for expungement or resentencing of certain federal marijuana arrests and convictions, and it supports expungement programs at the state and local levels,” Nadler wrote in the April press release.

ULV Assistant Professor of Sociology Nicholas Athey called the bill a step in the right direction.

“I think on the equity and social justice side, I would echo in the research I’m doing, looking at … the failed war on drugs.” Athey said, adding that he is looking at the arrest rates and sentencing outcomes among non-white marijuana offenders. 

A recent report in Business Insider found that an estimated 80% to 90% of legal marijuana businesses in the industry are white-owned, while nearly half of the marijuana-related arrests in 2018 were of Blacks and Latinos, who make up just over 30% of the population.

Professor of Sociology and Criminology Sharon Davis said she believes that the positive effects of legalizing marijuana are visible in the states with the most liberal marjuana laws. 

“One of the first states that legalized marijuana was Colorado,” Davis said. “They’ve been at it longer (than California). There has been a dramatic downturn in numbers of crimes committed. The taxes have led to a surplus in the state budget, and the state has started giving back checks for a couple of hundred dollars to residents.”

The MORE Act still needs to be taken up by the Senate. A date has not been set for Senate discussion or vote. 

Pedro Isao Mori can be reached pedro.mori@laverne.edu.

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