Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to decriminalize marijuana, voting 228 to 164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. It is the first time that a full chamber of Congress has approved such a measure.
The companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, has not been put up for a vote.
Prior to today’s vote, the bill’s sponsor in the House, Representative Jerry Nadler, urged his colleagues to support the MORE Act.
“This long overdue legislation would reverse the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana on the federal level and would take steps to address the heavy toll this policy has taken across the country, particularly on communities of color,” he said in a statement.
Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates, but Black people are more than three times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, according to FBI data.
The bill would create an office to fund services “for individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs including … legal aid for civil and criminal cases, including expungement of cannabis convictions,” the bill states. The bill also prohibits the denial of federal public benefits on the basis of certain cannabis-related convictions.
In November, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voted in favor of marijuana legalization ballot initiatives. And earlier this week, the United Nations Commission for Narcotic Drugs removed cannabis from Schedule IV, which includes some opioids.
“The nationwide wins this cycle demonstrate a strong mandate for progressive marijuana legislation,” Barbara Lee wrote in The Appeal earlier this week. “The chance that this legislation passes the Senate and is signed into law is no longer a pipe dream.”