The House Judiciary Committee has approved a landmark bill on Wednesday, November 20, that would decriminalize, deschedule, and tax marijuana at the federal level – that's the furthest any such cannabis legalization policy has made it through the legislative process since prohibition.
It’s the first time in history a Congressional committee has approved a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition. Next up, it’s heading for a floor vote in the House of Representatives. However, it remains uncertain if they will actually vote on it or whether it will pass to the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, or MORE Act, would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by stripping it from the list of Schedule I controlled substances, the same category as heroin.
The bill also contains numerous measures to remedy the harm caused by the “War on Drugs.” For starters, there would be a 5 percent tax on marijuana sales that would go towards supporting investments in communities most harmed by the drug war. They would also expunge some prior convictions for low-level marijuana offenses.
“The war on drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, harmed job prospects and access to housing for our nation’s most vulnerable communities, and destroyed countless lives,” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said in a press release. “The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to advance this bill is a significant step toward righting these wrongs and healing the wounds of decades of injustice.”
This is not just promising news for pot smokers and the victims of prohibitionist policies but advocates of the bill say it’s also a promising step for scientific research and medicine.
“This groundbreaking legislation would eliminate barriers to cannabis research and provide access for patients throughout the entire country,” Debbie Churgai, Interim Director of Americans for Safe Access, said in a press release. “It is time our federal government steps up to provide relief so that patients everywhere can medicate without fear of losing any of their civil rights and protections, including while in federal housing or healthcare settings, such as hospices.”
Of course, the bill is now in the hands of the powers that be. While attitudes toward marijuana are starting to soften among a significant number of people in the US and beyond, there is still strong resistance.
Ken Buck, Republican and US Representative for Colorado, said on Wednesday: “I don’t think a majority of the Republicans will support this bill… It is even less likely that the Senate would take it up,” per CNBC.