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House passes bill to legalize marijuana

The bill would clear criminal penalties for the distribution and possession of cannabis.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 7:30 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The House of Representatives has passed a bill to legalize marijuana nationwide, by a margin of 220 yeas to 204 nays.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, known as the MORE act, would expunge marijuana convictions and clear criminal penalties for anyone who distributes or possesses cannabis. It would also remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances. Members of the Congressional Cannibis Caucus held a press conference after the vote.

“We don’t have uniformity. We don’t have opportunities to have a uniformed tax provision. We don’t have banking systems. We don’t have research. And, we have a disjointed market that’s part legal and part illegal. We can’t be able to deal with the surplus production if we don’t have a national framework,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

The bill requires a federal tax on marijuana sales that would start at 5 percent and eventually increase to 8 percent over five years.

The act passed largely along party lines. This is the second time this legislation has passed in the House. The first time was back in December of 2020. At the time, the Senate failed to take up the bill.

Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) is among the lawmakers who voted against the bill as he claimed it disregards science and the nation’s drug abuse epidemic.

“Drug overdose death rates reached a historic high in America last year. This is no time to add fuel to the fire by opening the floodgates to this long-time gateway drug,” said Rogers in a statement. “Studies have long shown that marijuana directly affects memory and learning, and increases certain mental health disorders in some people. The federal government should not be investing Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars in marijuana and retroactively giving criminals a free pass.”

Marijuana is currently listed as a schedule I drug by the FDA. Schedule I drugs are defined as drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Supporters claim legalizing marijuana will reduce mass incarcerations, expunge marijuana convictions, remove employment barriers, and generate new jobs.

The text of the bill notes, “37 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted laws allowing legal access to cannabis, and 15 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam have adopted laws legalizing cannabis for adult recreational use. A total of 47 States have reformed their laws pertaining to cannabis despite the Schedule I status of marijuana and its Federal criminalization.”

The legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration. In a statement to some news outlets, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he’s working on a similar bill with Senators Booker and Wyden, saying, “the time has come for comprehensive reform of federal cannabis laws.”

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