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The US House of Representatives has voted to decriminalize marijuana

The US House of Representatives has voted to decriminalize marijuana

The US House of Representatives on Friday voted to approve a bill that would criminalize cannabis at the federal level. It is the first step toward making the drug legal and an attempt to undo some of the harm caused by punitive drug laws, especially among communities of color. Voting took place on party lines, with 220 votes in favor and 204 in opposition. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, but advocates say the more Democrats control both houses of Congress, the more hopeful the legislation will eventually become law.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Removal (or More Act) would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and add a federal tax on cannabis products. It would also establish a process to end sentencing and review sentencing for past federal cannabis convicts.

The House also added several amendments to the bill, among them a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on "the impact of legalization of recreational cannabis by states on the workplace" and requiring employers to help develop best practices. Updating your cannabis policies. Another, which was ruled out Friday, would have ruled out cannabis use as a reason for refusing federal security clearance, which is retroactive to 1971.

The House passed the old version of the bill in a lame-duck session in December 2020, only for it to be seen in the Senate. But with the midterm near, advocates think the time may finally be right for Congress to act.

In an interview with The Verge, Maritza Perez, director of the Drug Policy Action Office for National Affairs, said, "I feel a lot more optimistic than last time." "The bill is the same version that was passed in 2020, with no significant changes, so hopefully everyone who voted last time will vote again."

House Judiciary Speaker Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the bill's sponsor, says a recent wave of state legalization efforts has put pressure on Congress to act. He told The Verge that he hopes "the Senate will eventually [pass more acts] so that the federal government can join dozens of states in ending these unfair and outdated policies."

The fate of the MORE Act in the Senate is uncertain, but censors Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced draft legislation for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. Summer, which could be introduced in the Senate next month.

However, the Biden administration hasn't made much of the expected progress on cannabis reform, and its actions suggest a stance that is still very anti-cannabis. For example, in 2021, the White House screened employees for marijuana and asked some who tested positive to resign or work remotely. It also updated rules earlier this month that could deny security clearance to potential job candidates investing in legal cannabis companies. And Perez has previously said he hopes Vice President Kamala Harris can influence the president's thinking.

In addition, Perez noted that Biden had an opportunity to ease cannabis restrictions in Washington, DC, but that did not happen. The president's 2023 budget proposal retains a rider that prevents D.C. from legalizing the sale of marijuana, even though D.C.'s city council voted in 2014 to reduce marijuana possession.

"To me, it's very shocking - you think the budget is one area where it can make a statement," she said. "It tells me where his mind is; he believes more research is needed." Perez said he thinks it's possible Biden could take some action to grant clemency to those convicted of low-level marijuana-related offenses.

During a hearing of the MORE Act before the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, Speaker Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said the MORE Act would "address our nation's failed approach to the War on Drugs." It's worth noting that Biden was a key part of the federal War on Drugs in the 1980s and 1990s; He wrote the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act of 1994, which intensified the War on Drugs and introduced stricter prison sentences for federal drug offenses.

Biden took a softer line during the 2020 presidential campaign, saying he wants to "reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II drug so that researchers can study its positive and negative effects." They have not yet acted on the rescheduling.

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