In a symbolic but hugely significant move, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to legalize marijuana at the federal level.
The MORE Act —for Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement—removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and ends federal criminal penalties for anyone growing, distributing, or possessing marijuana.
It also redistributes resources to drug-war victims and allows cannabis-related offenses to be removed from criminal records.
"This is a historic day for marijuana policy in the United States," said Justin Strekal, political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which has been lobbying against the drug war since its inception.
"This vote marks the first time in 50 years that a chamber of Congress has ever revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally prohibited substance and sought to close the rapidly widening chasm between state and federal marijuana policies," he added.
For the MORE Act to become law, further approval is required from both the Republican-controlled US Senate as well as President Donald Trump.
That is highly unlikely, and so the MORE Act is almost certain to be reintroduced and revisited after January 20, when both President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and a new House and Senate are sworn in.
And the MORE Act does not affect state marijuana law, which means it does not immediately help the nearly 500,000 Americans still arrested every year for possessing or using cannabis.
Still, Friday's 228 to 164 vote, coming the same week that the United Nations voted to remove cannabis from its list of dangerous drugs, is instant history.
It is the first time in 50 years that Congress has revisited the federal ban on cannabis—and voted to end the hugely unpopular policy.
It is also a sign that Congress is very serious about ending federal marijuana prohibition—and with it, the war on drugs—while also allowing the burgeoning, multi-billion-dollar American cannabis industry to flourish.
"This vote stands as a rebuke of failed and harmful prohibition policies, and represents a growing understanding of their racially and economically disparate impacts," Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a press release on Friday.
"Americans are increasingly ready to see cannabis legal for adults and sensibly regulated, which they showed through their representatives today and at the ballot box last month," he added.
Election Day saw voters in four more states legalize recreational cannabis for adults: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Fifteen states now allow adults to use cannabis. According to recent Gallup polling, 68 percent of Americans support legalization. Many more support medical marijuana, which would also require removing cannabis from its current federal outlaw status.
And marijuana sales are on pace to exceed $15 billion in 2020.
For some, the MORE Act does not go far enough. The legal cannabis industry, for example, has been critiqued for exacerbating racial inequality, with job and investment opportunities denied for Black, Brown, and other racial minorities —who continue to be arrested and incarcerated at disproportionate rates across the country for petty marijuana offenses.
"Economic justice for those who have been deprived of basic rights and opportunities due to the unjust enactment and enforcement of cannabis laws must be central to federal cannabis policy," said Amber Littlejohn, executive director of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, in a statement issued Friday.'
What's next hinges on the United States Senate, as well as incoming President Biden's ability to manage cannabis policy amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic and social catastrophes.
The Senate version of the MORE Act is sponsored by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California), the nation's next vice president.
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has yet to schedule that or other substantive cannabis reform for so much as a committee hearing, let alone a full floor vote.
Some Republican members of Congress have pointed to Democrats' will to end marijuana prohibition as a sideshow, backdropping the drug war reform against the COVID-19 crisis.
That may change if Democrats are successful in the two Senate races in Georgia. If not, Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi may elect to fold cannabis reform into a coronavirus relief bill, as Pelosi was rumored to have been considering this fall.
Either way, Friday's vote remains a significant milestone in the United States's ongoing war on drugs—which, slowly but surely, appears to be ending.
- Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa swearing in ceremony at Raj Bhavan LIVE updates: JD (S) MLAs being shifted to Kochi resort
- Some North Suburbs Don't 'Just Say No' To Recreational Marijuana
- How Canada's legalization is shaping cannabis laws elsewhere
- Naperville chooses March primary for recreational marijuana referendum
- Nolte: Congress Abandons Kurds with Cowardly Vote to Condemn Trump
- Portland wants to score marijuana store applicants
- Schaumburg trustees recommend rules for recreational marijuana sales
- Schaumburg plans on allowing up to 5 marijuana shops in town
- Schaumburg plans on allowing 5 marijuana shops in town
- A year has passed since cannabis was legalized. Is the grass any greener?
- Chicago OKs marijuana zoning, prohibits sales in Loop
- Legal cannabis: A look back at the highs and lows of Year 1
- Phase cyclic, Congress will emerge stronger: Manish Tewari
- ‘AIIMS, toll plaza shift my priorities’
- Why won't Democrats vote to authorise impeachment?
- Illinois Marijuana Dispensary License Applications Unveiled
- Rikers Will Close in a Historic Overhaul of N.Y. Jail System
- Rikers Would Close in Historic Plan to Remake N.Y. Jail System
- George Conway blasts White House's 'garbage' letter to Congress
- 'Youthquake': The young New Zealanders voted into office – in between McDonald's shifts
In Historic Shift, Congress Votes To Legalize Marijuana have 938 words, post on www.forbes.com at December 4, 2020. This is cached page on Business News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.