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The House of Representatives just passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana

The bill is expected to die out in the Senate, which is presently controlled by a Republican majority.

The House of Representatives just passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana
Image Source: Olena Ruban / Getty Images

The House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for marijuana to be decriminalized at the federal level in the United States. The bill, named The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, was passed in the lower chamber with 228 votes for and 164 votes against on Friday afternoon. Only five Republicans and one independent expressed support for the measure. The bill will now go to the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. Many experts believe the bill, which calls for removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and erasing certain federal convictions, is unlikely to be taken up and consequently passed in the Senate, BBC News reports.



In addition to decriminalizing the drug, the Act will reinvest funds into communities that have been historically and adversely affected by the "war on drugs," a government-led initiative from the 1970s that aimed to stop illegal drug use, distribution, and trade through dramatically increasing prison sentences for both drug dealers and users. Should the bill pass in the Senate and go on to be signed by the President of the United States, it reportedly has the potential to "bridge a major disconnect between national and state drug policy" in the country.



It would do this through, firstly, expunging the federal criminal records of those who have been previously charged or convicted for non-violent cannabis offenses. Secondly, the bill would provide cannabis business owners easier access to grants or loans in addition to taxing cannabis retail sales. Thirdly, it creates a trust fund to reinvest in capital into job training and other initiatives, particularly for communities of color harmed by the drug war. Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, the founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and an original sponsor of the bill, stated, "We're not rushing to legalize marijuana. The American people have already done that. We're here because Congress has failed to deal with the disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 50 million regular marijuana users in every one of your districts."



While Democrats have rallied behind the MORE Act, Republicans have been its biggest critics. Numerous Republican lawmakers claimed that the bill posed "troubling implications" that could be potentially "harmful to American youth." For instance, Greg Murphy from North Carolina called the drug "one of the most abused substances on the planet." Others, however, believed that the time spent debating the bill in the House could have been used more fruitfully, such as by focusing on a Coronavirus relief bill.



Now, the future of the bill will depend largely on what happens to it in the Senate, which is currently Republican-controlled. If the GOP wins one or both Senate runoff elections in Georgia next month, the party will retain its majority. Matt Gaetz of Florida, the lone Republican co-sponsor of the bill, urged, "The federal government has lied to the people of this country about marijuana for a generation...If we were measuring the success of the war on drugs, drugs have won." More hopefully, President-elect Joe Biden has expressed his interest in decriminalizing marijuana, which could prove beneficial.


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