June 8, 2021 On The Issue Of Legalized Marijuana, Amazon Asks For MORE

Published via the JD Supra Platform

In a recent blog post, Amazon CEO Dave Clark expressed his public support for the federal Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act). The company also announced that it will stop screening or disqualifying potential employees for marijuana usage as part of its mission to become Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.

Amazon’s backing of the MORE Act is a big deal. The company has nearly 1.3 million employees and is the top e-commerce platform in the country with over 197 million customers. Though Amazon does not currently sell marijuana, based on its sudden, vocal support of the Act, it is conceivable that the business behemoth may be exploring ways to tap into this new revenue stream.

What is the MORE Act?

In a nutshell, the purpose of the bill is to legalize marijuana at the federal level by removing the plant from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). By taking cannabis out of the CSA, a broad range of federal services – previously denied to these businesses because of their involvement with a federally illicit substance – would become available.

Why Now?

This is not the first time the MORE Act has been introduced. In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the MORE Act in a 228-164 vote in December 2020. But, under the leadership of then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate did not consider the legislation prior to the close of the 116th congressional session.

Much has changed since then. Several states, including New York, New Mexico, and Virginia have passed laws legalizing marijuana. Democrats now control the White House and hold a slim margin in the Senate by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. In an effort to capitalize on the new balance of power, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the MORE Act last week.

What Are the Implications of the MORE Act?

Legalizing marijuana would help address a variety of societal and financial issues. In terms of racial equity, people of color are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than whites. From a financial perspective, enforcing cannabis prohibition laws costs taxpayers approximately $3.6 billion a year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Not only would the MORE Act decriminalize cannabis, it would help provide for the expungement of low-level, federal marijuana convictions that have disproportionately affected the Black community. Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis resource, reported that Americans have purchased $18.3 billion in cannabis products during the COVID-19 pandemic, a $7.6 billion increase in sales compared to the previous year. By one estimate, federal legalization of marijuana would generate more than $175.8 billion through 2025 in federal sales, business and payroll taxes and would add nearly 1.6 million jobs by 2026. The MORE Act would also allow marijuana businesses to access resources from the federal Small Business Administration.

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