House Approves Federal Legalization of Marijuana: What’s Next?

The legalization of marijuana in the United States is still a sensitive and complex issue. Currently, recreational marijuana use is legal in 18 states, Washington D.C., and Guam; medical marijuana is legal in 37 states. 

These states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana have created tension in the federal government. But despite the states’ right to have their own laws, marijuana use is still illegal at a federal level.

On Friday, April 01, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would make marijuana legal across the United States. If approved, this will eliminate criminal penalties for anyone who produces and distributes cannabis products.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act has been approved last year. It is not the first time that the House wanted to remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances but did not reach the Senate. But last Friday, the chamber voted 220-204.

What Is the MORE Act?

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act is a bill that specifically removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances. The legislation also eliminates the criminal charges imposed on individuals who manufacture, possess, and dispense marijuana.

The legislative proposal also includes:

  • replacing statutory references to marijuana with cannabis
  • establishing a trust fund to support programs and services for individuals and businesses affected by the war on drugs
  • prohibits denial of federal public service to individuals based on a cannabis-related conviction or conduct
  • direct the U.S. Department of Education to study the effects of state recreational legalization on children and schools; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to study the impacts of recreational marijuana in the workplace.

What Will Happen in the Senate?

The MORE Act in 2020 did not even make it to the Senate. For the legislation to pass the Senate and be signed into law, the bill needs 60 senate votes. 

Currently, the Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats would need to have all their members support the bill and 10 more Republicans to overcome the 60-vote requirement. The bill’s future in the Senate is still unclear.

Analysts said that the MORE Act will not pass into law anytime soon. First, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer together with Senator Ron Wyden and Cory Booker want to pass their own marijuana legalization bill. Second, the bill only received 3 Republican votes supporting the measure. 

But even if the MORE act will repeatedly stall in the Senate, there will be other proposals to decriminalize the manufacture, possession, and use of cannabis products at the federal level.

Cannabis Regulation

Eighteen states have legalized marijuana for adult use and 37 for medical use and the number will not stop increasing. As one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. with an estimated $100 billion in sales by 2030, it is expected that more States will pass the marijuana legalization bill. 

Regardless of what will happen to the MORE Act in the Senate, the use of cannabis products will continue to spread at state levels.