Monday, May 16, 2022

The US House of Representatives has voted to decriminalize marijuana

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Shreya Christina
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The US House of Representatives voted Friday to pass a bill that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. It is a first step towards making the drug legal and an effort to reverse some of the damage caused by punitive drug laws, particularly among communities of color. The vote went along party lines, with 220 votes in favor and 204 against. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, but proponents say that with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, they have greater hopes the legislation will finally become law.

The Reinvestment and Removal of the Marijuana Opportunity (or MORE Act) would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and add a federal tax on cannabis products. It would also set up a process to drop convictions and review sentences for past federal cannabis convictions.

The House also added several amendments to the bill, including a requirement by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to conduct an investigation into the “Impact of States’ legalization of recreational cannabis in the workplace” and to encourage employers to do so. help develop best practices in updating their cannabis policies. Another, rejected Friday, allegedly withdrew cannabis use as a reason for refusing federal security clearance, backdated to 1971.

The House passed an earlier draft of the bill in a slack session in December 2020, but saw it stall in the Senate. But with the midterm elections approaching, proponents believe the timing is finally right for Congress to take action.

“I feel a lot more optimistic than last time,” Maritza Perez, director of the Drug Policy Action Office for National Affairs, said in an interview with The edge† “The bill is the same version that was passed in 2020, with no substantive changes, so hopefully everyone who voted last time will vote in favor again.”

House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a sponsor of the bill, says the recent wave of stands legalization attempts pressured Congress to act. He told The edge he hopes that “the Senate will finally” [pass the MORE Act] so the federal government can join dozens of states to end these unfair and outdated policies.”

The fate of the MORE Act in the Senate is uncertain, but Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) submitted draft legislation for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act last summer, which could be introduced in the Senate next month.

However, the Biden administration has: no progress made many expected the reform of cannabis, and the actions suggest an attitude that is still very anti-cannabis. This is how in 2021 the Screened White House staff for marijuana and asked some who tested positive to resign or work remotely. It also updated the rules earlier this month that can deny security clearances to potential job applicants who have invested in legal cannabis businesses. And Perez previously said hopes that Vice President Kamala Harris could influence the president’s thinking have dwindled.

In addition, Perez notes that Biden had the opportunity to ease cannabis restrictions in Washington, DC, but did not. The president’s budget proposal for 2023 keeps intact a rider who prevents DC from legalizing marijuana sales, even though DC’s city council voted in 2014 to decriminalize marijuana possession.

“To me, that’s pretty shocking — you’d think budget is one area where he could make a statement,” she said. “This tells me where his mind is; that he believes more research is needed.” Perez added that she believes it is possible Biden will take some action to pardon people convicted of low-level marijuana-related crimes.

During a hearing for the MORE Act before the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, Speaker Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said the MORE Act would “address our nation’s failed approach to the war on drugs.” It’s worth noting that Biden was a key part of the federal war on drugs in the 1980s and 1990s; he wrote the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act of 1994, which ramped up the war on drugs and imposed tougher prison terms for federal drug crimes.

Biden took a softer stance during the 2020 presidential campaign, saying he would try to “reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II drug so that researchers can study its positive and negative effects.” He has not yet taken any action against the rescheduling.

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