MORE Cannabis Legislation in the House

Cannabis Practice Update

Date: April 07, 2022

Key Notes:

  • The House has recently again passed multiple bills aimed at marijuana legalization.
  • On April 4, 2022, the House passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act for the second time.
  • On April 1, 2022, the House passed the MORE Act for the second time.
  • On February 2, 2022, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act for the sixth time.


On April 1, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act by a vote of 220-204, largely along party lines. This marks the second time that the House has passed the MORE Act, the first being on December 4, 2020 by a vote of 228-164. The MORE Act has three main focuses:

  1. Removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances,
  2. Authorizing the provision of resources funded by the federal tax of cannabis sales (starting at 5% and increasing to 8% by the fifth year of implementation) to address the needs of communities that have been “seriously” impacted by federal prohibition policies, including increasing the participation of communities of color in the burgeoning cannabis market; and
  3. Providing the expungement of federal cannabis convictions and arrests.


An objective of the MORE Act is to undo some of the harms caused by decades of the federal government’s War on Drugs, which some states have already sought to do through their laws and regulations enacting state-level decriminalization and legalization of general adult use of marijuana. For example, New York has designated the first 100-200 retail cannabis licenses will be issued solely to people with marijuana-related convictions, and in California, local jurisdictions can set up equity programs (based on arrest rates, negative policy impacts and negative impacts from the War on Drugs) as part of their local licensing regime.

The House has passed multiple cannabis-related bills during this Congress. It has passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Act, also known as the SAFE Banking Act, both independently and as an amendment to broader legislation, six times in the last three years, most recently on February 4, 2022. Unlike the MORE Act, the SAFE Banking Act has a narrower focus on providing a safe harbor for financial institutions and insurance companies to provide services to cannabis businesses. Without access to traditional financial institutions, the cannabis industry is largely cash based and can potentially create logistical and safety concerns for businesses. Although some state-chartered banks and credit unions are willing to work with cannabis businesses, national financial institutions, like credit card processing companies, will not for fear of federal regulation. Some states, including Georgia, even require companies applying for medical marijuana-related licenses to have a certain amount of money on deposit with a state-chartered bank to be eligible for licensure.

Outside of equitable and financial legislation, the House has also passed bills focused on improving the state of medical marijuana. On April 4, 2022, the House passed for the second time the Medical Marijuana Research Act by a vote of 343-75. This bill is intended to establish a process that would grant researchers authorized access to marijuana flowers and other products manufactured in accordance with state-approved marijuana programs, essentially allowing them to study dispensary products. It also would require the DEA to license more growers and eliminate limits on the number of additional entities that can be registered to cultivate marijuana for research purposes. Passage by the House came only a few weeks after the Senate passed the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, that is similarly intended to encourage and expand research of marijuana and other cannabis derivatives, including CBD. Unlike the House bill, it would not allow for the study of products already in dispensaries.

An unfortunately defining characteristic of the House legislation is the absence of any consideration of it in the Senate. None of the House-passed bills have ever reached the Senate floor for a vote or even debate, although some counterpart legislation has been introduced in the Senate. For example, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) has been touted by some Democratic senators, including the Senate Majority Leader, as a parallel to the MORE Act, but it has not yet been formally introduced. Beyond all this federal legislation, individual states continue to pass laws legalizing either recreational or medical use of marijuana. As of 2022, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and two protectorates (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands) have legalized general adult use of marijuana, and 19 additional states, plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, have legalized medical marijuana use in some form. Legalization is up for consideration in several more state legislatures this year.

Despite the feelings of seeming inevitability surrounding national legalization, there are still those seeking to slow it down at the federal and state levels. As Governor Reeves put it when he signed Mississippi’s medical marijuana bill into law on February 2, 2022, his “goal . . . has been to allow for [access to medical marijuana] and do everything in [his] power to minimize and mitigate – though knowing it is impossible to eliminate – the likelihood of” legalization for recreational use. And some state bar organizations, even where marijuana has been legalized, have pushed back on the ability of their lawyers to assist cannabis clients. Despite this opposition, progress towards national legalization continues to move forward, even if haltingly and with many hurdles still to overcome.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information, please contact:

Eric N. Heyer
202.263.4128
Eric.Heyer@ThompsonHine.com

Joe Smith
202.263.4145
Joe.Smith@ThompsonHine.com

Austin Alexander
404.407.3683
Austin.Alexander@ThompsonHine.com

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