U.S. House Passes Federal Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Cannabis consumers and the cannabis industry had reason to celebrate in April as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal marijuana decriminalization bill that would remove marijuana from the federal list of illegal drugs.

The bill received bi-partisan support but still passed by a narrow margin, 220-204. Every Democrat in the House voted for the bill except two: Rep. Chris Pappas of New Hampshire and Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas. Every Republican opposed the bill except for Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida and Rep. Tom McClintock of California.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) removes cannabis from the list of Schedule I illegal drugs created by the federal government. As a Schedule I drug, federal law considers cannabis on par with heroin and cocaine.

By enacting federal marijuana decriminalization, the bill gives each state control over how they want to regulate marijuana without fear of federal interference. The “expungement” part of the act calls for releasing people incarcerated on cannabis-related offenses that involve possessing less than 30 grams.

The New Bills Helps Federal Workers, Veterans

Introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York, the bill also prevents federal agencies from denying security clearances for cannabis users, an ongoing issue at the federal level where many agencies require security clearance. It also allows the Veterans’ Administration to recommend medical marijuana for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The measure also calls for a new tax on marijuana sales. Funds from the tax would go to communities most impacted by the War on Drugs. Plans call for starting the tax at 5 percent and gradually increasing it to 8 percent over five years, according to The Hill.

House Members Focused on Social Justice Issues

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the “landmark legislation is one of the most important criminal justice reform bills in recent history,” according to Yahoo News. She said the proposed law offers “justice for those harmed by the brutal, unfair consequences of criminalization.” Studies have shown that drug laws have a much larger impact on minority communities.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said the MORE Act was a “common-sense” response to the “GOP’s failed authoritarian war on marijuana. It’s like they saw ‘Reefer Madness’ in middle school and never got over it.”

This is the second time in recent years that the House passed a marijuana decriminalization bill. A bill passed in December 2020 ended up never getting out of the Senate, then controlled by Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to unveil a similar bill for consideration in the Senate in April. He is working on the legislation with Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey, both Democrats.

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