Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes U.S. House

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It’s unlikely to win support in the U.S. Senate, but the House of Representatives has once again voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

The 220-204 vote was the second time Congress has acted to remove federal prohibitions against marijuana use.

The original Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was passed by the House on Dec. 4, 2020 but never considered by the Senate.

The House of Representatives has once again voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Some expect the new version of the bill to get at least a vote in that Republican-controlled chamber, though the odds of passage are slim to none.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for one, said he wasn’t open to decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

“In terms of legalizing marijuana, no, because it brings a lot of problems with it,” he said, although he added he was open to legalizing medical marijuana. “Medical marijuana, I’ve heard from many people in our state, seems to have some value,” he said.

Thirty-seven states and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws legalizing medical marijuana, while 18 states and D.C. have legalized recreational use of marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The MORE Act would eliminate all federal criminal penalties related to marijuana by removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act. It would also expunge virtually all federal marijuana convictions back to 1971, create grant programs, and impose a 5% sales tax on all marijuana products.

Money raised through the tax would pay for job training, mentoring, substance-use treatment, legal aid, re-entry services and youth recreation programs.

Employer Impact 

An amendment included in the new bill would require the federal government to conduct a study on how state recreational marijuana laws affect various aspects of the workplace, such as workers’ compensation claims and sick days used.

The MORE Act also includes protections against being denied any federal benefit based on marijuana use or convictions.

While marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, insurers are increasingly receiving requests to reimburse medical marijuana for workers’ compensation treatment.

At least five states — Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico — have found that medical marijuana is a permissible workers’ compensation treatment that requires insurer reimbursement.

Court rulings and legislation aside, there remain concerns about medical marijuana in the workplace. Many companies institute drug-free work zones, and an injured worker using medical cannabis for rehabilitation may violate this policy.

The Mahoney Group is one of the largest independent commercial insurance and employee benefits brokerages in the U.S. For more information, contact us online or call 877-440-3304.

This article is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.

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