Now that we’ve got a wide-angle snapshot of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, let’s get to the meat and potatoes, shall we?
In my last two posts, we examined the bulk of what the MORE Act seeks to accomplish and why it matters to Kentuckians. This week, to wrap things up, we’ll delve into the proposals within the legislation that seek to facilitate expansion of the cannabis industry, ensure equity in the marketplace, and address the carnage that half a century of abominable drug policy has left in its wake.
The MORE Act begins with the creation of the Opportunity Trust Fund, financed through the imposition of a 5% tax on the sale of products containing or made from cannabis. The tax levy will increase annually by 1% until a maximum of 8% is reached. Additionally, the bill would authorize the creation of the Cannabis Justice Office (CJO) within the U.S. Department of Justice. The primary responsibilities of the CJO are to establish, implement and oversee the Community Reinvestment Grant program. Under this program, grants would become available to organizations that provide services to people who have suffered due to the tyranny of prohibitionist lunacy. Specifically, the bill lists job training, re-entry services, legal aid (including cannabis conviction expungement), literacy programs, youth recreation or mentoring programs, and health education programs as focal points. The CJO, in concert with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), would also be directed to provide grants aimed at providing substance abuse treatment services to those adversely affected by the costly, failed drug war.
As I alluded to in part one of this series, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act contains a number of provisions and programs essential for the cannabis industry to thrive on a national scale. Additionally, the legislation includes funding and oversight for said programs. More information on those programs is forthcoming, but before addressing the framework, I feel it is necessary to touch upon the legislation’s foundation. First and foremost, the MORE Act removes cannabis from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) list of controlled substances which, in and of itself, has the potential to benefit Kentucky citizens in a variety of ways.
At the top of the list of the MORE Act’s legalization benefits are those within the judicial system. Under the proposed new cannabis policy, manufacture, distribution, use, and possession of cannabis would cease to be a crime at the federal level. Furthermore, this change to current policy is retroactive, establishing a process for expungement of prior convictions as well as sentencing reviews for those currently incarcerated due to the unjust policy of prohibition.
For the last decade, Kentucky cannabis advocates have been fighting hard during the legislative session to give Kentuckians safe, legal access to medicinal cannabis. Every year, our hopes get dashed upon the wall when someone in a leadership position sits on the bill, not allowing it to be heard or voted on by their peers.
Last session, finally, history was made when the House Judiciary Committee voted to pass HB136 - a bill that would have established a medical cannabis industry - out of committee and let it be heard and voted on by the House. We celebrated a victory that day, but our hopes were staunched once again when the bill was passed from the House floor into the Senate Judiciary committee, because state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, who serves as committee chairman, dragged his feet, telling advocates he had many concerns and he was thinking on it, while making it obvious he would not put the bill on the committee agenda until his concerns were assuaged.
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