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Mary Jane' Guide: We want MORE!!

Ask Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act

This year – 2020 – marked the 50th anniversary of many momentous moments: breakup of the Beatles, emergence of Earth Day, killings at Kent State and enactment of the Controlled Substances Act. This law left an indelible mark on public policy, both at home and abroad, that towers over other semi-centennial events. It has cost trillions and incarcerated millions.

Entitled the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and passed as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, this centerpiece of U.S. drug policy governs manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of drugs – narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, steroids and, yes, marijuana.

President Richard Nixon signed the CSA into law on October 27, 1970. The statute classifies drugs under five “Schedules” according to their potential for abuse, accepted medical applications and safety/potential for addiction. In theory, substances with the gravest potential populate the most restrictive Schedule I and those with the lowest occupy the least restrictive Schedule V. Largely, to hammer hippies and marginalize minorities, marijuana was slotted into Schedule I, where it remains a half century later.

Numerous attempts have been made to reclassify cannabis. Just two years after Nixon put his pen to the CSA, NORML filed a petition to move marijuana to Schedule II. Fourteen years later in 1986, the petition received a hearing where DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young opined, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” He went to assert, “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.“ And capricious it was. The administrator of the DEA rejected Judge Young’s legal opinion, as did a subsequent administrator in 1992. Marijuana remained Schedule I.

Other petitions have also contested cannabis’ scheduling: 2001, DEA denied. 2002, rejected eight years later by yet another DEA administrator. 2016, DEA turned down two. 2020, DEA motioned to dismiss.

In the meantime, over the last 50 years, the United States has spent over one trillion (yes, trillion – with a T) dollars enforcing the CSA. Since 2000 alone, 8.2 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana, one every 25 seconds. Blacks represent 30% of those arrests. Roughly 1.5 million people are under the control of the U.S. criminal justice system for drug-related offenses, with a little effect on crime and public safety.

Cannabis’ popularity has shifted tectonically, from 12% of Americans supporting legalization in 1970 to over two thirds fifty years later. Its U.S. market could equal $130 billion by 2024. from the National Library of Medicine counts over 34,000 marijuana-related research studies. The plant has become a widely accepted medical treatment, counting 5 million state-legal patients – all of them breaking federal law under the CSA.

While Congress has passed dozens of anti-marijuana laws since 1970, not once has it revisited the plant’s Schedule 1 status … until now. (Note, in 2018, Congress legalized hemp, defined as less than 0.3% THC. Any value exceeding that amount is “marijuana.”)

Mark your calendars. The MORE Act - Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 - will come before the U.S. House of Representatives for a historic vote by the full chamber the week of September 21st. Introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the Act will:

  • remove cannabis from the CSA entirely,

  • eliminate criminal penalties,

  • expunge criminal records,

  • replace statutory “marijuana” references with “cannabis,”

  • make small business loans available to cannabusinesses,

  • prohibit denial of federal benefits for cannabis-related conduct,

  • protect immigrants against sanctions for cannabis-related conduct,

  • impose a 5% tax on cannabis products to be deposited into a trust fund, and

  • utilize that money to offer grant funding to those who have been negatively affected by anti-marijuana laws.

With 99 cosponsors and counting, this groundbreaking legislation is expected to pass, marking the first time – ever – that a chamber of Congress voted in favor of legalization.

As historic as the MORE Act is, it awaits an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate. Skulking Senate chambers is the self-described the Grim Reaper, Mitch McConnell. As of February, 395 House bills languished on the majority leader’s desk. Will they pass? No. Under Senate rules, McConnell has sole discretion over which ones come to the floor. Given that Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris is the MORE Act’s lead Senate sponsor, is it plausible that the Reaper will move the measure to the floor? A mere snowball’s chance.

Must marijuana remain a federal pariah? Not necessarily. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently denied the DEA’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging marijuana’s status in the CSA. In May, a group of scientists and veterans sued the agency requesting reviews of the DEA’s determinations in 1992, 2016 and 2020 as unconstitutional. The DEA attempted to quash the lawsuit implying that a half century of rejected petitions isn’t enough. With the court’s decision, the race to reclassify intensifies.

Want to help the process? Want MORE from your government? Do two things:

  1. call or write your representative and Senators and demand descheduling, and

  2. vote for cannabis friendly candidates in November. Lists of them can be found at the Ohio Cannabis Action Network.

The world and its perception of marijuana have indeed transformed over the last fifty years. Let’s make the next 50 are cannabis friendly and CSA free!


You can read this article on the Columbus Free Press website here.


We Want MORE!!

Ask Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act

U.S. Capitol Switchboard — 202-225-3121

U.S. House of Representatives


Senator Sherrod Brown — 202-244-2315

Senator Rob Portman — 202-224-3353

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