For First Time Ever, House of Representatives Passes Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana at Federal Level

by on December 4, 2020 · 3 comments

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The House of Representatives has approved legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and seek to “address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs.”
Friday’s vote in the Democratic-led House is the first time a chamber of Congress has voted on federal marijuana decriminalization. It has little chance of passing the Republican-led Senate, however.

The bill passed largely along party lines: 222 Democrats, five Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian, voted in support while 158 Republicans and six Democrats voted against.
The Republicans who voted for the bill are Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, the bill’s co-sponsor, as well as Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Tom McClintock of California, Denver Riggleman of Virginia and Don Young of Alaska. The Democrats against were Reps. Cheri Bustos and Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been upended as a result of convictions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and the racial disparities in conviction rates for those offenses are as shocking as they are unjust,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement after the vote. “That’s why we passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today.”

The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and eliminate criminal penalties for individuals who manufacture, distribute or possess marijuana. It also includes creating a process to remove prior convictions, known as expungement, and conduct sentencing review hearings for federal cannabis offenses.

Cannabis got a big win in Congress, but legal weed isn’t around the corner.

The measure would also authorize a 5% sales tax on marijuana products to invest in services such as job training, legal aid and substance abuse treatment for individuals adversely impacted by the war on drugs. The tax revenue would also provide funds for small businesses loans and allow access to marijuana licensing and employment for economically disadvantaged individuals.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week criticized the House for moving on the bill instead of passing parts of the Covid-19 stimulus bill that both parties agree on.
“The House of Representatives is spending this week on pressing issues like marijuana. You know, serious and important legislation befitting this national crisis,” McConnell said sarcastically on the Senate floor.

Critics of the bill cite the lack of potential traction in the Senate.

“It’s an unserious bill that was voted on in an unserious manner and we rest easily knowing there is zero interest in moving this bill in the Senate and zero interest in supporting it in either the current administration or the incoming one,” Kevin Sabet, president and co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes marijuana legalization, said in a statement.
The House bill was introduced by Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler last July.

“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color,” Nadler said in a statement Friday before the vote.

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, now the vice president-elect, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, but it has been stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate Finance Committee.

President-elect Joe Biden supports decriminalizing marijuana and the automatic expungement of prior criminal records for marijuana possession, but not full legalization of the substance, a Biden campaign spokesman said last year.

“He would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization and would seek to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana’s positive and negative health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule 2 drug,” Andrew Bates, who is now a spokesperson for the Biden transition, told CNN.

Despite still being illegal federally, states have legalized marijuana and stood up their own regulated markets since 2012 without major federal hindrance. Both former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump’s administrations did not interfere with states’ legalized markets.

This fall, five additional states voted to legalize marijuana, either for medicinal or recreational purposes, or both, bringing the current national total to 15 states where recreational use and 36 states where medical use are legal, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Even more states are eyeing legalization in the coming years, including New York, New Mexico, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. CNN

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler (T-Bone) Boone December 6, 2020 at 2:11 pm

This really get’s my goat, Marijuana is strait up a gateway drug, Your chasing the high-been to thousands of NA meeting, 99% of them started off with that little harmless joint, which in the end often times led to in no specific order lies, job loss, financial ruin, estrangement from family,divorce, messed up and confused kids, and the obvious prison, a record for life, life-wrecker, a non starter, please i beg you, if you are smoking dope, or thinking about it attend a few NA meeting it’s free and might save your life,


Chris December 7, 2020 at 8:33 am

Sorry to learn someone took your goat. Marijuana is no more/less a gateway drug than having your first beer or class of wine is a gateway to alcoholism. The overwhelming majority of people who ever tried and continue to smoke pot have not gone on to other drugs. All the NA meetings (and the personal stories you heard from the other attendees) do not change that. While it may be true that many people suffering drug addiction may have started with pot, to make it out like most of them go on to full on addiction is just not so and I will be so bold as to say you know that.


Scrip Terd December 6, 2020 at 7:05 pm

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