The House of Representatives passed a historic bill Friday, seeking to decriminalise both medical and recreational use of marijuana on the federal level. The bipartisan bill addresses not only the criminal aspects of drug use in the country, but also contributes to the larger Biden push for social justice and racial equity. Much like a previous bill passed in December 2020, the current proposal is highly unlikely to pass the filibuster-proof threshold of 60 votes in the Senate.
The current proposal in the Congress was sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (representative of New York’s 10th Congressional District) and is known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. The bill simply calls for the reclassification of cannabis products so that it’s possession is no longer a criminal act under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. When the industry is finally formalised and regulated on a federal level, new taxes would be levied on marijuana sales and the proceeds would go to helping the communities most adversely affected by the decades-long ‘war on drugs’ that first started under the Nixon administration over half a century ago.
If the bill is signed into law, a 5 % tax on cannabis retail sales will be effective immediately, and the tax will be raised to 8 % in three years. Legal marijuana is a rapidly growing industry in the US (worth $25 billion in 2021), largely thanks to state-level relaxation of abolitionist laws in recent years. The resulting revenue on these transactions would be redirected to legal and social programs to help the victims of drug overdose and the ‘war on drugs’. The bill will also result in the elimination or drastic reduction in the sentences of thousands of inmates currently serving jail time or awaiting trial for drug-related offences.
The MORE Act passed in the House of Representatives this Friday. Two Democrats, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire opposed the bill, while three Republicans, Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida and Tom McClintock of California voiced their support. The Senate Democrats are planning to propose a bill of their own, which will be equally unlikely to reach the Presidential desk for final implementation. Nevertheless, decriminalisation of drugs on the federal level only seems to be matter of time now. The cause has become popular with more than two-thirds of Americans, according to recent polls. It is sufficiently important that a group of Republican lawmakers even proposed their own alternative last November.