House Democrats pass a bill legalizing marijuana

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) recently condemned House Democrats for focusing on “cats and cannabis, but not on COVID.” It is still unclear whether a coronavirus stimulus package is coming, but the House has given cannabis the green light.

Breitbart reports that the U.S. House on Friday passed a bill that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. 

The bill was passed by a margin of 228 to 164 with several Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues on this one. This marks the first time that either the Senate or the House has voted in favor of legalizing marijuana.

The bill . . .

. . . has been given the name the “Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act.”

The MORE Act would remove federal criminal penalties for marijuana-related crimes. It would expunge the records of those with federal, nonviolent marijuana convictions, and offer the states a financial incentive to do the same. It would create grant programs to help those affected by the Controlled Substances Act. And, it would impose a tax on marijuana products.

One important point is that, although the bill would legalize marijuana at the federal level, states will still be allowed to regulate its sale within their borders.

Some members of the House additionally wanted to include language in the bill that would make it clear that private-sector employers will still have the right to test employees for marijuana use. This language, however, was ultimately not included in the bill.

Why now?

The House Democrats are pushing the MORE Act as part of their larger quest for criminal justice reform and racial inequality. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) statement following the passage of the bill made this clear.

“Today, with the bipartisan MORE Act, the House has proudly passed one of the most important criminal justice reform bills in recent history,” Pelosi stated. “This momentous step helps end the devastating injustices of the criminalization of marijuana that have disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color. . .”

Pelosi added that the MORE Act “builds on these advancements and finally secures justice for those negatively impacted by the brutal, unfair consequences of criminalization.” And, she concluded that “the House has achieved an extraordinary victory for our fundamental values of justice, equality, and opportunity for all.”

A republican’s perspective

One of the Republicans who voted for the MORE Act is Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). According to USA Today, Gaetz said that the “bill was necessary because current federal prohibitions on marijuana ‘constrains’ the states.”

The question now is whether the MORE Act will make it through the Senate. As things currently stand, it is unlikely that it would receive a hearing anytime soon.

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