In a landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs, the House of Representatives on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, the Washington Post reports.
The passing of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marks the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana.
In addition to decriminalizing marijuana federally, the bill provides for expunging some marijuana convictions and a 5% excise tax on marijuana that would help fund programs for “individuals most adversely impacted by the war on drugs.”
The bill now heads to the Senate where is expected to face fierce opposition by Republicans. Bt the House vote — which fell largely along party lines — shows just how mainstream the push to decriminalize marijuana has become in recent years.
House Republicans did not hold back in attacking Democrats for holding the vote, casting it as a frivolous, dead-end effort and accusing them of prioritizing “cannabis instead of COVID.”
Progressive activists, meanwhile, have hailed the bill as a step toward justice.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime marijuana advocate, said: “We are not rushing to legalize marijuana — the American people have already done that. We are here because Congress has failed to deal with a disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 50 million regular marijuana users in every one of your districts. We need to catch up with the rest of the American people.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the only House Republican to co-sponsor the bill, said in a speech: “If we were measuring the success of the war on drugs … drugs have won. Because the American people do not support the policies of incarceration, limited research, limited choice and, particularly, constraining medical application.”
Marijuana is legal for recreational adult use in 15 states and legal for medicinal use in 36 states.