The US House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level. This marks the second time that congressional lawmakers approved of legislation to repeal federal cannabis prohibition.
The House voted 220-204 in support of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), with the approval of two amendments.
Only three Republicans supported the measure, with two Democrats opposed to it.
Speaking ahead of the House floor vote, Nadler said the MORE Act is “long overdue legislation that would reverse decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalization of marijuana.”
“It would also take steps to address the heavy toll these policies have taken across the country, particularly among communities of color,” he added. “For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem, instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) described the MORE Act as “an important piece of legislation” evidenced by the overwhelming support for state-level legalization seen over the past decade or so.
“This bill is a matter of justice and equal opportunity,” Hoyer said. “It’s about addressing systemic inequities and reforming our criminal justice system so that Americans and America can become a better, stronger, more fair and more just America.”
The first approved amendment was proposed by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). It ensures $10 million would be available to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration so it can carry out research on “technologies and methods that law enforcement may use to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana.”
The other was put forward by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA). It would require the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to study the “impact of the legalization of recreational cannabis by states on the workplace.”
The MORE Act now heads once again to the Senate where it had previously stalled.
If passed into federal law, the MORE Act would federally deschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, although individual states could decide to continue with marijuana prohibition.
Legal cannabis products would face a federal excise tax of five percent for the first two years, rising to eight percent five years after implementation.
It would prohibit the denial of federal benefits and services on the basis of marijuana use or possession, or past juvenile convictions for a cannabis-related offense. Federal agencies would also be prohibited from using “past or present cannabis or marijuana use as criteria for granting, denying, or rescinding a security clearance.”
The measure further lays out expungement processes for non-violent federal cannabis convictions.
Federal tax revenues from marijuana sales would go toward a newly-established Opportunity Trust Fund, with half of this money supporting a Community Reinvestment Grant Program under the direction of the Justice Department. Forty percent would be allocated to the federal Small Business Administration in order to help new marijuana businesses get off the ground. The remaining 10 percent would fund substance misuse treatment programs.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated he has imminent plans to file his own federal cannabis legalization bill – the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).