COLORADO SPRINGS — In this 360° Perspective we're taking a look at the MORE Act.
Right now, Congress is about the closest it's ever come to legalizing cannabis at the federal level.
It's an historic effort in a time when 2/3rds of American's support legalization according to the Pew Research Center.
First, some background. Back in 1970 The Controlled Substances Act was added to the federal tax code.
Marijuana was labeled a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning the government believed it had high potential for abuse, severe safety concerns, and no medical benefits.
Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, cocaine and LSD.
Two decades later states started to challenge that designation. First, many legalized medical marijuana. In 2012 Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana.
Today, 33 states have medical marijuana and 11 have legalized marijuana.
DrugPolicy.org says more than 600,000 Americans were arrested for simple possession last year.
Thousands are serving prison sentences today for non-violent offenses involving marijuana.
On top of all the legal and financial barriers cannabis companies face because of the plant's federal status, there's also the social stigma that makes it hard for local businesses to be accepted in their own communities.
Some who work in the Colorado Springs medical marijuana industry say they love to give back to the community, but have trouble finding non-profits that will accept their donations.
"I mean these are small businesses and they're family owned businesses and they're people who support our community and you know we live here and we shop here. Giving back is so important. So, there is a lot of negative stigma around cannabis and we at Cannabis Marketing Inc. with our partners we believe that doesn't have to be the case," Morgana Lebold said.
Local food bank Care and Share took them up on their offer and now several shops are collecting food items for the less fortunate over the weekend.
The MORE Act stands for "Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement."
It has three major goals.
The first would deschedule cannabis and remove it from the Controlled Substances Act. It would mean full decriminalization of weed across the board which would allow America's marijuana industry to act like any other business, to bank or make charitable donations.
The second goal would require the federal government to review and possibly wipe out previous convictions involving marijuana that were non-violent, pushing for states to follow suit.
Finally, it would establish a five percent federal tax on all marijuana sales which would go to a newly created "Opportunity Trust Fund." That would be used in communities that have been impacted by the "War on Drugs" which are mostly low-income and minority communities.
But does it have a chance to reach President Trump's desk?
While the MORE Act passed committee it has not yet gone before the full House, where it has bipartisan support. But UCCS political science professor Josh Dunn explains why it could die in the republican controlled Senate.
"My understanding is that some of the republicans think the MORE Act goes too far. You look at Mitch McConnell in the senate. He's not a fan of legalization or decriminalization. So I think right now it's probably going to die. And of course you're looking at the fact that there are some other significant political issues that they're gonna be confronting over the next few months. So I'm guessing that there's not gonna be an appetite to take on something this controversial in the senate," Dunn said.
Even if it doesn't pass we have already seen major milestones for cannabis this past year with the legalization of Hemp and the SAFE Banking Act passing through the House. We covered that in a previous 360° Perspective.
We'll keep you posted on the MORE Act's status in Congress.
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