The United States Congress has been flirting with legal cannabis for a long time. Rhode Island is only the most recent example of an ongoing legalization wave; more than three dozen states have legal cannabis in one form or another on the books, and a supermajority of Americans support access to legal medical or adult-use cannabis. And yet…Congress can not seem to get legalization over, or more precisely anywhere near, the finish line. The most recent bill to be passed by the House of Representatives is the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act), which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, eliminate criminal penalties, enact a tax on cannabis products, and take other steps toward criminal justice reform, social justice, and economic development. What the MORE Act does not do is legalize cannabis. It would simply kick cannabis law back to the states, where businesses could operate without fear of federal criminal penalty. Alternatively, a state could lawfully continue prohibitionist policies. Cannabis legalization is a rare, bipartisan issue, and stocks rallied at the news of MORE passing the House. If MORE is passed by the Senate, will this new law incentivize bigger companies to get into cannabis? Let’s dig in. MORE and Legalization Even if MORE is passed by the Senate (where 60 votes are required because of filibuster rules), it’s not a slam dunk for any company looking to enter the cannabis industry. As mentioned above, MORE does not legalize cannabis at the federal level.
“If Congress intends to take meaningful steps to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs and protect businesses small and large, it must explicitly pause the DCC and clearly define the regulatory roles and responsibilities for states.”
The mess of this state-by-state, patchwork approach to regulation and legalization is best exemplified by the mess of CBD and Delta-8 following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp, but kept CBD illegal. Kind of. Four years after its passage, consumers buying the two compounds can find them at the dispensary or the gas station, on the streets or at a pharmacy, and are largely left in the dark as to product safety, efficacy, truth in labeling, purity, and more.
Will Big Companies Like Marlboro Get into Cannabis?
People have long been guessing as to whether industries like big tobacco, big alcohol and big pharma will take up all the space in the cannabis marketplace should federal legalization come to pass.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Cannabis a Good Industry to Get Into?
That very much depends on your risk appetite. Because of its volatility, uncertainty, and ongoing federal prohibition, it is not an industry for the risk-averse. However, it is a rapidly growing industry, so there’s a lot of opportunity as well.
How Big is the Cannabis Industry?
2021 cannabis sales were estimated at $25 billion in the U.S.
What Would the MORE Act do?
If the Senate passes the bill and President Biden signs it, it would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, eliminate criminal penalties, enact a tax on cannabis products, and take other steps toward criminal justice reform, social justice, and economic development.