House Votes to Federally Decriminalize Marijuana


The vote passed 228-164, with only five Republicans voting in favor of the measure and six democrats opposing.

Despite the fact that the federal government still criminalizes cannabis, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler pointed out that 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis while 15 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. According to Nadler, the legislation “would reverse the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and would take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly on communities of color.”

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust,” Nadler, D-N.Y., said during debate on the bill Friday morning. “I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.”

Republicans emphasized in opposition to the bill, that marijuana is to blame for increased traffic deaths and as a gateway drug.

Beyond decriminalizing cannabis, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act would also mandate a reassessment of prior marijuana convictions, invest in services for people caught up in the war on drugs and open Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses.

Despite widespread support from Democrats in the House of Representatives, the bill stands almost no chance of becoming law in the current session of Congress due to a Republican firewall in the Senate and President Donald Trump still occupying the White House.

President-elect Joe Biden campaigned in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, but even after Biden is inaugurated in January, Democrats would have to pass the measure not just through the House again but also clear it through the Senate.

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