House to vote on historic marijuana decriminalization bill in September

The U.S. House of Representatives is preparing a for a floor vote on The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, which would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, Congress confirmed Friday.

This would give control to the states to determine the drug’s status and whether to vote to legalize the drug. Marijuana is already legal in 11 states: California, Michigan, Colorado, Illinois, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.

The forthcoming vote is being regarded as historic, as it would be the first time a congressional chamber has chosen to remove cannabis from a prohibitive classification.

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Cannabis is currently a Schedule I drug under Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Heroin and ecstasy also fall into the same category.

The MORE Act would also erase some cannabis criminal records. The bill, H.R. 3884 (116) “requires federal courts to expunge prior marijuana-related convictions and arrests,” according to an email by the office of Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).

The bill also authorizes the assessment of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and its associated products to create an Opportunity Trust Fund. According to the department’s email to members, it would include grant programs administered by the Department of Justice and Small Business Administration to support individuals who “have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs.”

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Furthermore, the bill would minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment.

The bill was introduced by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler in 2019 and passed the House Judiciary Committee in November of last year.

This bill would still need to pass the Senate.