House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana; Jonathan Udell, Rose Law Group Attorney’s reaction

By Ursula Perano | Axios

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a “landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs,” which has disproportionately affected people of color.

  • In addition to decriminalizing marijuana federally, the bill provides for expunging some marijuana convictions and a 5% excise tax on marijuana that would help fund programs for “individuals most adversely impacted by the war on drugs.”
  • The bill is virtually guaranteed to fail in the Senate, but the House vote — which fell largely along party lines — shows just how mainstream the push to decriminalize marijuana has become in recent years.

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The House’s vote in favor of the MORE Act on Friday represents the first time a house of Congress has passed comprehensive legislation to end federal marijuana criminalization. As public support for full criminalization has plummeted to 8%, and conservative states have begun legalizing recreational marijuana, this vote is common sense.

While conservatives are tired of federal infringement on states’ police power and of wasting their tax dollars on a counterproductive policy, progressives yearn to eliminate a law that disproportionately impacts minorities. There seems to be little common ground in our increasingly polarized country, but giving states the power to chart their own course on marijuana prohibition appears to be one thing voters in both parties agree on.

Although the Senate will probably not vote on the bill unless its leadership changes, activists are emboldened by this significant victory and hope to use it to secure more limited reforms like the SAFE Banking Act.

Jonathan Udell, Rose Law Group Attorney

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