THE House of Representatives passed a historic bill to decriminalize cannabis as a way to combat "injustices" from the War on Drugs.
The House voted on Friday on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act), which will decriminalizes and clear the way to erase nonviolent federal marijuana convictions.
The bill passed largely by party lines: 222 Democrats, five Republicans and one independent voted in support while 158 Republicans and six Democrats voted against.
"Millions of Americans' lives have been upended as a result of convictions for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
"And the racial disparities in conviction rates for those offenses are as shocking as they are unjust," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), said in a statement after the vote.
"That's why we passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today."
However, the Senate is unlikely to approve the bill.
The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act and eliminate criminal penalties for individuals who manufacture, distribute or possess the drug.
The bill will also create a process to expunge prior convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings for federal cannabis offenses.
The measure would also authorize a five percent sales tax on marijuana products to invest in services such as job training, legal aid and substance abuse treatment for individuals adversely impacts by the war on drugs.
"It is the right thing to do. For too long the war on drugs has targeted young people, especially Black people, and rejected the advice of experts, said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-sponsor of the MORE Act.
Blumenaur said that unlike heroin and cocaine, which are also Schedule 1 drugs, marijuana is not addictive and it has been found to have therapeutic properties for managing pain.
However, research from the CDC and other organizations have found that marijuana can be addictive.
"For decades, discriminatory cannabis policies have perpetuated yet another form of systemic racism in America," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who co-sponsored the bill with Blumenauer.
"And this legislation will begin the process of restorative justice for those most harmed."
In the joint letter to Congress, Lee and Blumenauer said their reform efforts underscore the "critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs that has devastated communities of color, especially Black and Brown communities."
"We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done," the letter read.
More to follow…
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