House Votes to Decriminalize Cannabis
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House Votes to Decriminalize Cannabis
Posted by CN Staff on April 01, 2022 at 13:38:13 PT
By Jonathan Weisman
Source: New York Times
Washington, D.C. -- The House passed legislation on Friday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, as Democrats and three Republicans banded together to capitalize on the political resonance of legalized cannabis as an issue of economic growth, racial justice and states’ rights.The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, which passed 220-204, is unlikely to secure 60 votes to pass the Senate, despite the backing of the majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. But supporters of marijuana decriminalization — even some Republicans who voted against the Democratic legislation — said on Friday that the vote was a necessary step toward building consensus on something that can become law.
The Democrats’ bill would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, impose an 8 percent tax on cannabis products, allow some convictions on cannabis charges to be expunged and press for sentencing reviews at the federal and state levels. It would also make Small Business Administration loans and services available to cannabis businesses while setting standards for them.The Republicans voting for the measure were Representatives Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida and Tom McClintock of California. But other Republicans have signed on to a similar bill by Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina. (Two Democrats, Representatives Henry Cuellar of Texas and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, voted against the legislation on Friday.)“I’m respecting the process that the Democrats want to go through,” said Ms. Mace, who has made marijuana decriminalization a central issue but voted against the Democratic bill. She added: “You can save the federal government $600 million over five years, and it saves lives. It’s an important issue. People care about it; the vast majority of Americans care about it.”By lowering law enforcement and incarceration costs and imposing new taxation, the bill would save the government hundreds of millions of dollars. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act would reduce the federal deficit by nearly $3 billion over the next decade.Similar legislation passed in 2020 but went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. The vote on Friday was the first since Mr. Schumer elevated the issue in that chamber. After its passage, he said, “the time has come for comprehensive reform of federal cannabis laws.”He added, “Of course, we will need Republicans to pass a legalization bill in the Senate, and we will be working hard to try and get them.”Ms. Mace, backed by four other Republicans, has her own bill, with a lower tax rate to discourage an illicit cannabis trade and other measures to discourage youth consumption. And the Democratic senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon have written a marijuana decriminalization measure with Mr. Schumer.With 47 states and the District of Columbia having relaxed marijuana laws in some way, the federal government is far behind. Thirty-seven states have legalized cannabis for medical use, and 15 have granted adults legal access for purely recreational purposes.But because cannabis remains a federally controlled substance on par with heroin, banks insured by the federal government have been loath to make their services available to the burgeoning marijuana industry.Sales in that industry totaled $20 billion in 2020 and are projected to more than double by 2025, according to the bill. But those transactions are by and large in cash, without banking services.“If states are the laboratories of democracy, it is long past time for the federal government to recognize that legalization has been a resounding success, and that the conflict with federal law has become untenable,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.Even as states move forward with legalization, people convicted on marijuana offenses — disproportionately people of color — remain imprisoned. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill’s provision to expunge marijuana convictions and lower sentences would reduce time served by current and future inmates by 37,000 years.“Make no mistake, this is a racial justice bill,” said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California.During the debate on Friday, House Republicans raised concerns that the bill would expose more children to cannabis and that it ignored mental health issues in adult users. Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona, mocked a Democratic colleague, Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, for mistaking today’s potent strains with those of his youth.“He’s thinking pot is a drug where people get goofy and eat Cheetos,” Mr. Biggs said of Mr. Cohen.But they generally skirted the issue, which is broadly popular in both parties, accusing Democrats of failing to address more pressing topics.“The left will not let the Democrats do what needs to be done with the inflation problem, the energy problem, the illegal immigration problem on the southern border,” said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “So what do they do? They legalize drugs. Wow.”That opposition belied the issue’s popularity with Democratic and Republican voters. Some deeply Republican states like Oklahoma have become marijuana boom states. Kansas is the latest state on the verge of legalizing cannabis for medical use.Federal law is far out of step.“This is an issue of individual freedom and basic fairness that clearly transcends party lines,” Mr. Schumer, Mr. Wyden and Mr. Booker wrote in a letter to fellow senators in February. “However, one major hurdle continues to stand in the way of states’ ability to make their own decisions about cannabis — the continued prohibition of marijuana at the federal level.”Ms. Mace said the Democrats with whom she had been negotiating needed to pass their version of a legalization bill before getting serious about talks on a bipartisan bill, with buy-in from the Senate. She has used the issue to distinguish herself from her Republican primary opponent, Katie Arrington, whom President Donald J. Trump has endorsed.“I hope that I can be forgiven for voting against it,” Ms. Mace said on Friday, before casting her vote against the Democrats’ bill. “Because I want to continue. I want to work on this issue, but we have to work on it together.”Source: New York Times (NY) Author: Jonathan WeismanPublished: April 1, 2022Copyright: 2022 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 08, 2022 at 04:23:06 PT
That is a good idea. 
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Comment #3 posted by gloovins on April 07, 2022 at 15:10:01 PT
All I can do is....
Urge people to call their US Senators - both - and urge them to specifically support the MORE Act that just passed in the House. Imagine the concept: You have an elected official in the US Senate and you call and try and talk with them as a constituent?! It can happen -- if you want it to. I am literally daring every person who reads this and who lives in the USA and is a legit voter, to call their SENATORS and ask if they please vote YES on the MORE Act. Tell them it is just a plant and how can you outlaw nature? Thanks much all. Much love......gloovins 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on April 02, 2022 at 05:33:58 PT
I know it won't pass the Senate. They never have enough votes on the right to get change.
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Comment #1 posted by gloovins on April 01, 2022 at 19:30:02 PT
Please all
DO NOT expect this to pass the Senate. Dinosaurs like Dianne Feinstein remain FIRMLY against this. And she is a Democrat! She and others like her ilk are the ones that will kill this. I hope I am wrong but most likely not. Dianne Feinstein defines the term "worthless". 
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