A marijuana legalization supporter at rally outside the Wyoming Capitol in January 2021. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. — On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, legislation that would eliminate criminal penalties for anyone who manufactures, distributes or possesses marijuana in the United States.

The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. Congress.gov explains further that the bill would do the following if it becomes law:

• Replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis,

• Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees,

• Establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs,

• Imposes an excise tax on cannabis products produced in or imported into the United States and an occupational tax on cannabis production facilities and export warehouses,

• Makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers,

• Prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions,

• Prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction),

• Establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses, and

• Directs the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization. Congress.gov

The House passed the MORE Act on a vote of 220–204, with five representatives, including Wyoming’s U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, not voting, according to the House Office of the Clerk. Cheney missed the vote due to illness, her chief of staff said in an e-mail Saturday. Cheney submitted an official explanation to the House that explains she would have voted “no” on the MORE Act if she had been present.

Adult recreational marijuana use is already legal in 18 states. A state-level bill to decriminalize cannabis sponsored by Rep. Mark Baker (Sweetwater County) found 10 co-sponsors in the Wyoming Legislature, but the House did not consider that bill for introduction during the 2022 Budget Session.

Leafly’s 2022 jobs report found that legal cannabis supported 428,059 jobs across the county as of January. 107,000 new jobs were created by the industry in 2021 and legal cannabis sales reached $24.6 billion. The report shows that that compares with about $94 billion in beer sales.

NOTE: This story has been updated to include information on why Cheney did not cast a vote on Friday and adds that she would have voted “no” on the MORE Act had she been present for the vote.