The US House of Representatives voted to approve a bill that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level on Friday, April 1.
The bill still needs to pass the Senate – which doesn't look optimistic – but it’s clear the policy has extremely strong backing from the public.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement, also known as the MORE Act, would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and add a federal tax on cannabis products. It would also look to expunge some historical convictions of cannabis-related offenses and review sentences for past federal cannabis charges.
The MORE act was passed in the House with 220 votes to 204. The vote mainly fell along party lines, with the overwhelming majority of the votes against (202) coming from Republicans, with just two Democrats saying no to the bill.
Hopes are not high that the MORE act will pass in the Senate, however. The House passed a version of the same bill in December 2020, but it was stalled in the Senate. Currently, Democrats control 48 seats and Republicans control 50 seats, and it's assumed the bill will also fall along party lines here too.
Decriminalizing cannabis is a policy strongly favored by the US population. A 2021 poll by Pew Research found that 60 percent of Americans believe cannabis should be legal for both medical and recreational use, while 30 percent argue that it should be legal for medical use. Just 8 percent say cannabis should not be legal for use by adults.
There are a number of strong drivers behind the public support for this latest bill. Many Americans are starting to see the economic potential of decriminalizing and taxing cannabis, just like they do with alcohol. Recent years have also seen an increasing number of people become discontented with the failed “war on drugs,” which has disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income communities.
“Make no mistake: this is a racial justice bill. It’s about the thousands of people of color who sit in jail for marijuana offenses while others profit. It’s about finally repairing the harms of the War on Drugs on communities and families across the country. I thank all those who have made this day possible and urge my colleagues to pass the companion bill in the Senate expeditiously,” Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat representative for California, said in a statement.