It may be today’s April Fool’s joke, but it’s no joke.
The United States House of Representatives today passed a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level.
the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Delisting Actknown as the MORE Act, decriminalizes marijuana and will remove marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminate criminal penalties for someone who manufactures, distributes or possesses marijuana.
The MORE ACT said legalizing cannabis is a matter of economic growth, social equity, racial justice and states’ rights.
Sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (DN.Y.), the bill passed by a vote of 220 to 204 on a bipartisan basis with the votes of three Republicans, Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast from Florida and Tom McClintock from California. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it likely won’t get the 60 votes needed to pass, despite support from Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (DN.Y.). The House passed a similar bill in 2020 but failed to garner support in a Republican-controlled Senate.
“This bill reverses decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalization of marijuana by legalizing marijuana, retroactively erasing prior convictions and more,” Nadler said. “The criminal penalties for marijuana-related offenses and the resulting collateral consequences are unfair and damaging to our society. The bill breaks new ground and would begin to correct some of the injustices of the past 50 years.”
With 37 states and the District of Columbia already allowing cannabis for medical purposes and 15 legalizing it for adult recreation, the federal government has been lagging behind on what is a popular issue. In 2020, legal cannabis sales totaled $20 billion in 2020 and are expected to double by 2025.
With the vast majority of states allowing the use of marijuana, “What a massive epidemic of common sense in America,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). “I recognize that our party is not for the kind of cocaine fueled orgies that [Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC)] bragged about this week, but we understand that their marijuana prohibition laws aren’t working for our people.
Meanwhile, the costs of enforcing cannabis prohibition laws cost taxpayers an estimated $3.6 billion a year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and result in more than 600,000 arrests per year. year, disproportionately affecting people of color who are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts, despite equal consumption rates across populations. Meanwhile, less than a fifth of cannabis business owners identify as minorities and only about 4% are black.
“Protecting consumers from lawsuits is the first place to start,” said Dasheeda Dawson, founding chair of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, a coalition of government officials. “Ending the war on drugs also means adopting progressive, non-criminal regulatory strategies rather than relying on law enforcement.”
According to Congress.gov, the bill includes the following:
- create a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities affected by the war on drugs,
- impose an excise tax on cannabis products produced in or imported into the United States and a trade tax on cannabis production facilities and export warehouses,
- make Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are legitimate cannabis businesses or service providers,
- prohibit the denial of federal public benefits to an individual based on certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions,
- prohibit the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws based on a cannabis-related event (for example, conduct or conviction),
- establish a process for expunging convictions and conducting sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offences, and
- order the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization.