The laws regarding marijuana have changed a lot in recent years. States across the country, including Illinois, have started allowing medical use, recreational use or both.
Unfortunately, federally, both using and distributing marijuana is a crime that can come with serious consequences. This week, however, many are hopeful that federal law could change in the coming weeks. The U.S. House of Representatives will soon take a vote regarding H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act.
This is what you should know about this bill and what it could mean for the decriminalization of marijuana.
What would H.B. 3884 do?
Several components come with decriminalizing a substance like cannabis on a federal level. Currently, the bill includes language that would create policies to:
- Make Small Business Administration loans available to cannabis-related businesses
- End denial of federal public benefits to those who have cannabis-related convictions
- Prohibit denial of immigration-related benefits and protections on the basis of cannabis-related convictions
- Create a process for removing cannabis-related convictions from criminal records
- Establish a sentencing review process for those convicted of federal cannabis-related offences
- Eliminate restrictions on granting government security clearance for people with records of marijuana use
Marijuana is a scheduled substance included in the Controlled Substances Act. Substances within the Act tend to be either illegal or highly regulated. In order to accomplish decriminalization of cannabis, the substance would either need to move to a different schedule, reducing its regulatory obligations, or be removed entirely.
Over the years, lawmakers have debated both approaches to decriminalizing cannabis. With regard to H.R. 3884, the bill would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances.
What would this mean for past cannabis convictions?
The MORE Act addresses past marijuana convictions specifically. Along with removing cannabis from the list of scheduled substances, the MORE Act creates a plan for reviewing past marijuana-related convictions, to take actions, including:
- Expunging cannabis-related convictions, adjudications and arrests
- Reducing or vacating current sentences
If the MORE Act passes and gets signed into law, those who are facing criminal charges or convictions related to marijuana could see some relief.
What happens next?
While the House has affirmed the bill, there are still significant steps in the process before the bill is signed into law. The MORE Act still needs approval from both the Senate and the President.
Once enacted on the federal level, states that still have laws regulating cannabis would need to make legislative changes for marijuana to be fully legalized. In states like Illinois, where recreational and medicinal marijuana have been legalized, the MORE Act would still help those who have marijuana-related offences on their record.