From Rolling Stones Magazine, Leafly to NBC News, they are all highlighting the passing of the More Act.
This bill decriminalizes marijuana. Specifically, it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.(1)
So, what does this mean? Is weed legal now? Unfortunately, no. But it is no longer considered a dangerous drug. Marijuana has been classified as dangerous as Heroin or PCP.
How did Marijana become illegal?
To understand how we ended up here, it is important to go back to what was happening in the United States in the early 1900’s just after the Mexican Revolution. At this time we saw an influx of immigration from Mexico into states like Texas and Louisiana. Not surprising, these new Americans brought with them their native language, culture and customs. One of these customs was the use of cannabis as a medicine and relaxant.
Mexican immigrants referred to this plant as “marihuana”. While Americans were very familiar with “cannabis” because it was present in almost all tinctures and medicines available at the time, the word “marihuana” was a foreign term. So, when the media began to play on the fears that the public had about these new citizens by falsely spreading claims about the “disruptive Mexicans” with their dangerous native behaviors including marihuana use, the rest of the nation did not know that this “marihuana” was a plant they already had in their medicine cabinets.
The demonization of the cannabis plant was an extension of the demonization of the Mexican immigrants. In an effort to control and keep tabs on these new citizens, El Paso, TX borrowed a play from San Francisco’s playbook, which had outlawed opium decades earlier in an effort to control Chinese immigrants. The idea was to have an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants.
That excuse became marijuana.
This method of controlling people by controlling their customs was quite successful, so much so that it became a national strategy for keeping certain populations under the watch and control of the government.
During hearings on marijuana law in the 1930’s, claims were made about marijuana’s ability to cause men of color to become violent and solicit sex from white women. This imagery became the backdrop for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which effectively banned its use and sales.
While the Act was ruled unconstitutional years later, it was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970’s which established Schedules for ranking substances according to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. Cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category, Schedule I, supposedly as a placeholder while then-President Nixon commissioned a report to give a final recommendation. (4)
The More Act is the momentum forward that we need to make weed legal. As of right now, The More Act needs to pass through the Senate. If it passes the Senate, it will need to be signed by the President of the United States to become law. The bill proposes specific changes that can change the way people look at the use of Marijana.
The bill also makes other changes, including the following:
- Replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees
- Establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs
- Imposes a 5% tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund
- Makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers
- Prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions
- Prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction)
- Establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses, and
- Directs the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization. (2)
A federal Marijuana sales tax would pay for the opportunity for more grants to help areas hit the hardest by marijuana drug wars.
The MORE Act comes with a legalization tax that flows to an “Opportunity Trust Fund” to pay for law enforcement and small business loans. The federal tax would be 5% of the sale price of a cannabis product.
A new “Cannabis Justice Office” at the Office of Justice will be created to carry out grant program funding, including:
- Job training
- Reentry services
- Legal aid for civil and criminal cases including expungement of cannabis convictions
- Literacy programs
- Youth recreation and mentoring programs
- Health education programs and services to address any collateral consequences individuals or communities face as a result of the war on drugs
- Administering substance use treatment services for individuals most adversely impacted by the war on drugs.(3)
Here is to the More Act, and moving forward.
(1) (2) https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3884