In a monumental move in the history of USA and its war against drugs, the House of Representatives passed the marijuana legalization bill on Friday.

Feature photo source: Unsplash 

2020 – The year of marijuana 

Marijuana has had a good run this year and the conversation around it is shifting for the first time in fifty years. 

From winning the ballot in five states during the November elections to becoming reclassified by the United Nations, it’s hard to ignore the green wave.

House of Representatives monumental vote on marijuana legalization 

The Democratic-dominated House on Friday ratified a bill to decriminalize and tax marijuana at the federal level. 

The much-anticipated vote marks an important and significant milestone in the history of marijuana law reform. 

The MORE Act passed by a mostly party-line 228-164 vote. In a surprising turn of events, five Republicans supported the reform and six Democrats opposed it. 

Representatives for the MORE Act  

The marijuana bill which passed by a sweeping 228 votes received just as much vocal support from its proponents. Democrats heavily argued that the reform will help to right the wrongs of the racist war on drugs. 

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in her opening remarks insisted on the need for change in marijuana laws that have disproportionally targeted people of color.  

“Across this nation, thousands of men and women have suffered needlessly from the federal criminalization of marijuana, particularly in communities of color and have borne the burden of collateral consequences for those ensnared in criminal legal systems that have damaged our society across generations. This is unacceptable and we must change our laws. It is time for Congress to catch up with the reforms that states are enacting,” Lee said. 

Conservative Florida Representative Matt Gaetz voted for the bill in a bid to reverse the ‘flawed judicial system’. 

“We have seen a generation, particularly of black and brown youth, locked up for offenses that not should have not resulted in any incarceration whatsoever,” Gaetz said. 

Additional lawmakers for marijuana legalization

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, the bill’s sponsor, argued the importance of passing the MORE Act in reversing racial inequality in the judicial system. 

“America’s marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects and the ability to vote. As the legal marijuana industry grows, Congress has a responsibility to ensure our policies are equitable & inclusive,” said Nadler.

In a moving speech, vocal marijuana reform champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer said, “We’re not rushing to legalize marijuana.” 

“The American people have already done that. We’re here because Congress has failed to deal with the disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 50 million regular marijuana users [who live in] every one of your districts. It’s time for Congress to step up and do its part. We need to catch up with the rest of the American people,” he said. 

The bill’s biggest opponents 

Opposition mainly came from Republicans. They argued that legalization would infringe on public safety, especially that of children. 

Relevance of passing the MORE Act 

The house-passed marijuana legalization bill deschedules marijuana federally.  

Passing the MORE Act goes a long way in “reversing” the current cannabis policy gap that exists between states and the federal government. 

Those with prior convictions would have their records expunged under the MORE Act as well. 

The marijuana reform bill would remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act. 

Through the bill the government can now impose a 5 percent tax on marijuana. This would essentially fund community and small business grant programs to help those most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. 

The marijuana business is a billion-dollar industry that is estimated to rake in $13.7 billion over the next ten years.  

“CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that H.R. 3884 would increase revenues, on net, by about $13.7 billion over the 2021-2030 period,” says the nonpartisan report, published Friday. 

Jitters as vote goes to the Senate 

The next stop for the bill is the Senate, but marijuana advocates are not as enthused. 

The advancement of The MORE Act by the House sets the stage for a potential, Senate battle in 2021. 

However, the legislation is not expected to pass in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

If by some miracle it is passed at the Senate, marijuana advocates are hopeful that president-elect Joe Biden would stand by his word about implementing these noteworthy marijuana reforms.

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