For the first time, a U.S. Congressional committee approved a bill to end the federal prohibition on cannabis.
The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement) by 24 votes to 10 on Wednesday, paving the way for a vote in the entire House.
The vote saw 2 Republican Representatives, Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Tom McClintock (R-CA), join their Democratic colleagues and vote in favor of the bill.
The debate on the bill has generally seen 2 opposing positions. But, Republican legislators argued that the bill was coming too quickly and that it should be the subject of additional hearings. While,Democrats replied that there had been enough debate on the issue and that there was no time left to start reversing the decades of damage caused by the application of prohibition.
Some members of the GOP, who acknowledged that the status quo is untenable, called for a separate cannabis law, the STATES Act, which would strengthen the ability of states to legislate cannabis without federal intervention, but which does not contain any element of social equity and would not decriminalize cannabis, arguing that a reduced approach would be better in the Senate.
Adoption of the MORE Act
If approved, the MORE Act, introduced by Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, erase the criminal records of people previously convicted of cannabis and impose a 5% sales tax, the income from which would be reinvested in the communities most affected by the war on drugs.
It would also create the ability to reassess the convictions of people incarcerated for cannabis offenses, protect immigrants from being denied citizenship for cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearances because of its use.
“These steps are long overdue. For too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice issue and not as a matter of personal choice and public health,” Nadler said in his opening remarks. “Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people at the federal level is reckless and unfair. »
“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana was a mistake,” he said. “The enforcement of the racially unequal marijuana laws has only aggravated this error and has had serious consequences, particularly for minority communities. »
Members of the House and Senate, as well as legalization activists, welcomed the committee’s approval of the bill.
” In Fact,the adoption of the MORE Act represents the first time the Judicial Committee has had a positive vote to end the cruel policy of criminalizing cannabis,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “Not only does the bill repeal the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it also provides pathways to opportunities and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most. »
And then what?
So,after passing this committee, the bill should normally receive a positive opinion of 7 other committees. To speed up his arrival in the House, Jerrold Nadler would like to try to persuade the other relevant committees to waive their rights, a complicated process, particularly with the involvement of the Finance Committee (Ways and Means), which oversees tax legislation and generally estimates the cost and revenues of bills.
Then, the MORE Act may be submitted to a debate and a vote before the entire House of Representatives. The measure will still have to be adopted by the Senate to become law, a task that promises to be difficult because it has a Republican majority and is much more conservative on cannabis issues.