House Passes Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana Federally

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The House passed legislation that will decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by a vote of 220-204 on Friday (April 1).

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) would remove marijuana from the controlled substance list handing over full control to the states to determine their own laws. If the MORE Act passes through the Senate, people who were incarcerated on marijuana-related charges of less than 30 grams would be released. 

It would also clear any charges against those who manufacture, possess, or distribute the substance.

This comes after a failed attempt to pass similar legislation addressing cannabis at the federal level through the Senate. In 2020, the marijuana bill was passed by the House but stalled in the Senate because of former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “There’s so many discussions that have gone on over the years about the use of marijuana or cannabis or whatever. The fact is, it exists. It’s being used. We’ve got to address how it is treated legally.”

The MORE Act aims to repair the damage that began with President Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” campaign that worked to end illegal drug use and trade. With no rehabilitation or treatment efforts in place for those misusing illegal substances, many non-violent drug offenders were put behind bars.

This incarcerated a disproportionate amount of people of color, specifically Black Americans. In 2020, American Civil Liberties reported that Black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to white people despite using the substance at similar rates.

Once drug offenders get out of jail, the repercussions of being incarcerated still follow them afterward.

“Whether it be denying them federal relief or impeding them from getting licensure for work, all these different laws create further barriers for folks when they’re trying to reenter society,” Stephen Post, campaign strategist at the Last Prisoner Project, said to ABC News.

If the bill can make it through the Senate, the MORE Act would also launch a program designed to provide help communities of color with civil and criminal legal cases, job training, and health education programs, ABC News reports. 

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the author of the new bill, told ABC News “More than anything else, the MORE Act is about ending and reversing decades of failed federal policy that has taken a heavy toll on too many people across this country, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color.”

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