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Pingree Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana at the Federal Level

Pingree is a cosponsor of the historic MORE Act, which decriminalizes marijuana and aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies

Today, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and the U.S. House of Representatives passed one of the most comprehensive marijuana reform bills ever introduced in the U.S. Congress. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level and aims to correct the historical injustices of failed drug policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities by requiring resentencing and expungement of prior cannabis convictions. This will create new opportunities for individuals as they work to advance their careers, education, and overall quality of life. The MORE Act also ensures that all benefits in the law are available to juvenile offenders.

“In the first year of sales, Maine’s legal recreational cannabis industry brought in $60 million, offering the state much-needed tax revenues during a critical time of economic recovery from the pandemic. But because marijuana remains criminalized at the federal level, legal proprietors have had to contend with numerous hurdles that other industries do not. With marijuana decriminalized on the federal level, burdensome legal hurdles that hinder the industry’s growth will be removed and these entrepreneurs won’t be treated as if they are operating outside of the law,” Congresswoman Pingree said. “The criminalization of marijuana has predominantly affected Black Americans – creating sometimes-lifelong barriers to jobs, education, and housing. The MORE Act takes vital steps to correct many of the injustices in America’s racially motivated drug policies. As a cosponsor of the MORE Act, I proudly cast my vote to decriminalize marijuana today so we can support our communities, strengthen our state economies, and uplift those who have been affected by our failed 50-year War on Drugs.”

The MORE Act:

  • Decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level by removing the substance from the Controlled Substances Act. This applies retroactively to prior and pending convictions, and enables states to set their own policy without threat of federal intervention.
  • Requires federal courts to expunge prior convictions, allows prior offenders to request expungement, and requires courts, on motion, to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision.
  • Authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund, which includes three grant programs:
    • The Community Reinvestment Grant Program: Provides services to the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment.  
    • The Cannabis Opportunity Program: Provides funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
    • The Equitable Licensing Grant Program: Provides funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
  • Opens up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers.
  • Provides non-discrimination protections for marijuana use or possession, and for prior convictions for a marijuana offense:
    • Prohibits the denial of any federal public benefit (including housing) based on the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense.
    • Provides that the use or possession of marijuana, or prior conviction for a marijuana offense, will have no adverse impact under the immigration laws.
  • Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry.

The MORE Act has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights, criminal justice, drug policy, and immigration groups, including: the Drug Policy Alliance, Center for American Progress,  ACLU, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NORML, Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, UndocuBlack Network, and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

In the 116th Congress, Pingree and the House of Representatives passed the MORE Act by a bipartisan vote of 228 to 164, marking the first time a Congressional chamber had voted to decriminalize marijuana.

Since the 2016 referendum legalizing recreational consumption of marijuana in Maine, Pingree has fought to create clear federal pathways for legalized states. Pingree was an original cosponsor of the MORE Act, as well as the SAFE Banking Act, which would permit federally-insured financial institutions to work with marijuana-related businesses in legalized states. Read more about how Pingree supports Maine’s cannabis economy here

In an op-ed published in the Portland Press Herald in December 2020, Pingree detailed her support for the MORE Act and why Maine and other states with legal recreational marijuana are poised to benefit from the historic law. 

After the 2020 election, 35 states including Maine have legalized either medical or recreational use of cannabis.


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