H.R. 3884 Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 “MORE ACT.”

H.R. 3884

The list of sponsors of this Bill reads like a Who’s Who’s of the liberal arm of the Democratic Party:

“Mr. NADLER , Ms. LEE of California, Mr. BLUMENAUER, Mr. JEFFRIES, Ms. VELA ́ZQUEZ, Mr. GAETZ, Mr. CICILLINE, Mr. COHEN, Mr. CORREA, Ms. DEAN, Mr. DEUTCH, Ms. ESCOBAR, Ms. JACKSON LEE, Ms. JAYAPAL, Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia, Mr. TED LIEU of California, Ms. LOFGREN, Mr. RASKIN, Mr. SWALWELL of California, Mr. EVANS, Ms. GABBARD, Ms. HAALAND, Mr. HUFFMAN, Mr. KHANNA, Mr. MCGOVERN, Ms. NORTON, Mr. PERLMUTTER, Ms. PRESSLEY, Ms. WA- TERS, and Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN, Ms. SCANLON, Mr. HORSFORD, Ms. SCHAKOWSKY, Mr. DEFAZIO, Mrs. LURIA, Mr. NEGUSE, Mr. ESPAILLAT, Mr. GALLEGO, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. POCAN, Mr. LUJA ́N, Ms. PINGREE, Ms. TITUS, Mr. MORELLE, Mr. MEEKS, Mr. CARBAJAL, Ms. TLAIB, Mr. RUSH, Mr. CLAY, Mr. HECK, Mr. GARC ́IA of Illinois, Mr. CA ́RDENAS, Mr. DANNY K. DAVIS of Illinois, Ms. DELBENE, Mr. SHERMAN, Mr. SOTO, Mr. LEVIN of Michigan, Mr. HASTINGS, Ms. KELLY of Illinois, Ms. WILSON of Flor- ida, Mr. DOGGETT, Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi, Mr. BEYER, Ms. FUDGE, Mr. BRENDAN F. BOYLE of Pennsylvania, Mr. LOWENTHAL, Mr. FOSTER, Mr. KENNEDY, Ms. MENG, Ms. DEGETTE, Mr. PANETTA, Mrs. LAWRENCE, Mr. ENGEL, Mr. TRONE, Mr. MICHAEL F. DOYLE of Pennsylvania, Ms. CRAIG, Miss RICE of New York, Ms. CLARKE of New York, Ms. BLUNT ROCHESTER, Mr. PHILLIPS, Ms. PORTER, Ms. CLARK of Massachusetts, Ms. OMAR, Mr. WELCH, Mr. COX of California, Ms. SPEIER, Mrs. KIRKPATRICK, Mr. PAYNE, Mr. LARSON of Connecticut, Mrs. HAYES, Mr. BROWN of Maryland, Mr. COURTNEY, Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York, Mrs. TRAHAN, Mr. MOULTON, Mr. CRIST, Mr. GONZALEZ of Texas, Mr. YARMUTH, Mr. KILDEE, Mr. SCOTT of Vir- ginia, Mr. LEVIN of California, Mr. CONNOLLY, Mr. PRICE of North Carolina, Mr. GOMEZ, Ms. DAVIDS of Kansas, Ms. OCASIO-CORTEZ, Mrs. TORRES of California, Mr. DAVID SCOTT of Georgia, Ms. BROWNLEY of California, Mr. SAN NICOLAS, Ms. CASTOR of Florida, Mr. CROW, Ms. BONAMICI, Mr. CASTRO of Texas, Ms. DELAURO, Mr. TAKANO, Mr. AGUILAR, Ms. ADAMS, Ms. MCCOLLUM, Mr. VEASEY, and Mr. BUTTERFIELD.

To decriminalize and deschedule cannabis, to provide for reinvestment in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, to provide for expungement of certain cannabis offenses, and for other purposes.”

Several issues are concerning about this Bill. First, from the onset, the Bill is obviously pandering to specific demographic groups. This Bill goes far beyond merely decriminalizing cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinols. Additionally, it does not make the distinction between natural and synthetic tetrahydrocannaninols (THC).

This Bill doesn’t only legalize the use and sale of Marijuana. It wants to throw out and erase ALL past, present, and future charges and convictions having to do with juveniles.  “A rulemaking under this paragraph shall be considered to have taken effect as of the date of enactment of this Act for purposes of any offense committed, case pending, conviction entered, and, in the case of a juvenile, any offense committed, case pending, and adjudication of juvenile delinquency entered before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.”  Currently, the use, sale, and possession of Marijuana is a crime in most states and is a violation of federal law. Whether you personally agree or disagree with the law. It exists. Folks arrested for the use, possession, or sale of Marijuana made a conscious decision to do so. RARELY are folks arrested the first time they use or transport. The majority in County Jail or serving Federal time is not even first or second-time offenders.  For whatever reason, they felt that the risk and consequences of getting caught were worth it. Grandfathering in adjudicating their convictions isn’t the right thing to do. There are consequences to poor choices, and those consequences should be upheld. They committed a crime and should finish paying for that crime. 

Of course, Congress wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to create a new tax on the product. “CANNABIS PRODUCTS.—On cannabis products manufactured in or imported into the United States, there shall be imposed a tax equal to 5 percent of the price for which sold.” Note there is no ceiling to the tax proposed here. I’m sure they have visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads.

“CANNABIS PRODUCTS TREATED AS TOBACCO PRODUCTS.—Section 5702(c) of such Code is amended by striking “and roll-your-own tobacco” and inserting “roll-your-own tobacco, and cannabis products.” This would mean cannabis could fall under the tobacco tax in addition to the proposed 5% Cannabis Tax. 

“Any person who plants, cultivates, harvests, produces, manufactures, compounds, converts, processes, prepares, or packages any cannabis product shall be treated as a manufacturer of.” The exception to this is “shall not apply concerning any cannabis product which is for such person’s own personal consumption or use.” In other words, if you sell or give your homegrown product to friends or family, you will be considered a “manufacturer.” You will then be subject to all the licensing, bond, and tax requirements of a manufacturer. 

This Bill also creates yet another “Director” and department to oversee all the new Federal regulations. He/she must hire employees to add to the already over-bloated number of Federal Departments and employees. The Director will be responsible for creating a myriad of social, grant, and business programs.  Specifically made to help Black and Latino citizens member open cannabis-related businesses. All of which is to be funded by the taxes generated from the sales. Sounds lovely in theory.

 Looking at Congressional history, I am not hopeful Congress will leave 100% of the dedicated fund alone. Congress tends to reallocate funds frequently. There is a high statistical probability that at least a “small” portion of the taxes generated will NOT remain for this program’s exclusive use. Inevitably leaving yet another Federal Department with a myriad of programs requiring funding by Congress. I then foresee these taxes increasing significantly to “make up” any deficits.

All one has to do is look at the Post Office as an example of a Federal Department doing WELL until Congress got involved. In 2006 Congress passed a law which required the Postal Service to make annual payments to fund 75 years’ worth of future retiree health benefits in 10 years. That has forced a staggering debt onto a program that was running in the black at the time. That law forced the Post Office Department into insolvency. An example of Congress not being able to leave well enough alone. 

The existing Highway Trust fund is another example of how a Federal Department with its own dedicated stream of tax revenue ends up insolvent. The HTF is insolvent because of a department run without budget-cutting and revising its program.  

This Bill creates yet another department of governmental bureaucracy that requires creating a tax to fund it. A tax that BEGINS at 5% with no ceiling of that tax written into the Bill.

Another item slipped into the Bill, “A prohibition on criminal conviction restrictions for licensing except with respect to a conviction related to owning and operating a business.”  ANYONE with any criminal conviction can be licensed to sell cannabis products. I find it troubling that one convicted of a drug or a violent crime: folks who have already been proven to be dishonest at best, would potentially have access to the millions of dollars a year having a cannabis business could bring. I would be more than a bit reticent to trust the majority with the key to my home—let alone enough money to fund a criminal empire. 

It doesn’t appear that the sponsors of this Bill,  nor the House members that voted to approve the Bill yesterday, gave much thought to the potential unintended consequences that would be created due to the way the Bill is written.

As the Senate stands RIGHT now, thankfully, this Bill would not pass. However, this is yet another reason to pay attention to the Georgia Senate election in January. Much more than who hold the Georgia senate seats depend on the outcome of that election.