By Donovan Levine
The US House of Representatives passed the MORE Act by a vote of 228-164 on Dec. 4 in a decision that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill still must pass through the Senate and be signed by the President before it is passed into law.
This is the first time either chamber of Congress took up a bill to legalize cannabis, and according to most experts and officials, it was only a matter of time.
“Anybody who’s doing work on drug policy and criminal justice could see that it was only a matter of time before the federal government legalized [cannabis],” said Maritza Perez, national affairs director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
According to a PEW Research Center survey, 67% of the nation is in support of decriminalization, encompassing both sides of the political spectrum.
The MORE Act, which stands for Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement act of 2019, would remove marijuana from the DEA’s list of federally controlled substances and allow states to set their own marijuana policy.
It will also require federal courts to expunge prior convictions for marijuana offenses.
A 5% tax on marijuana products would also establish a trust fund for programs designed to help those impacted by the “war on drugs” which has incarcerated thousands of young Americans and ravaged households and communities for decades.
These programs include job training and treatment for substance abuse.
The NBA had also suspended random cannabis testing on its players that same morning. Four new states, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota, also passed legalization laws on election night, which ultimately favors the trend toward progressive drug laws.
Prior to November, marijuana had been legalized by 15 states recreationally, while 38 states and D.C. allowed some form of it for medicinal purposes, according to The Rolling Stone.
The decision by the House was really never a matter of if, only when, based on current trends.
Time will tell whether the Senate will take up the bill, considering all the House-passed legislation that has been ignored by the Republican-controlled Senate.