At the beginning of December, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal bill that would decriminalize cannabis. This is the first time a chamber of Congress voted on cannabis decriminalization at the federal level.
One Step Forward
The Democratic-led House took the first big step to decriminalize cannabis. Now, the bill heads over to the Republican-led Senate. Unfortunately, there’s little chance it will succeed there.
Still, this is worth celebrating. This sets the path for federal cannabis decriminalization. It also sets forth the opportunity to correct the “address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs.”
“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,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D). “That’s why we passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today.”
The MORE Act would do the following:
Remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
Authorize a 5 percent sale tax, which would provide funds for small business loans and other related areas
The bill was voted in favor by 222 Democrats, five Republicans, and Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian. On the other hand, 158 Republicans and six Democrats voted against the bill.
The Republicans who voted for the bill are Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, the bill’s co-sponsor, and 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.
Of course, not everyone is in favor of cannabis decriminalization. The bill has yet to be seen by the Senate, but members of the opposition have already voiced their disapproval. One of which is Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He 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.
Despite this opposition, this is still a long-awaited victory. Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler introduced this bill to the House last July. It’s only a matter of time before America federally decriminalize cannabis.
“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.