Federal Lawmakers Move on Bill to Decriminalize Cannabis

by Cole Lauterbach


U.S. Representatives voted to move cannabis decriminalization legislation out of committee, setting the stage for a historic vote of the entire chamber, but the Democrat-sponsored bill faces an uncertain fate in the U.S. Senate.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 wouldn’t automatically make recreational cannabis use the law of the land, rather it would allow states to criminalize or decriminalize it as they see fit. It would also expunge prior cannabis convictions, impose a five percent federal tax on cannabis sales, then put that revenue toward social justice issues that would address the impact the war on drugs has had on minorities.

Dozens of similar bills have been filed in recent years, but none of those bills have seen the level of consideration that the MORE Act has gotten.

Supporters said it would remove the clash between states that have legalized recreational use and the federal government’s narcotics laws.

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health,” said Chairman and sponsor Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York.

While the bill did get two Republican votes from Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and California U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, others in the GOP said the measure was less about policy and more about political rhetoric.

“There is effective legislation before this committee that is more comprehensive, less bureaucratic, and would stand a chance of becoming law,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican.

Collins said the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act would be a better bill. It doesn’t contain the social justice elements included in Nadler’s bill.

The bill does not automatically make its way to the House floor for a vote. It’s been referred to other committees for clearance.

The House sent the U.S. Senate legislation in September that would remove punishments for banks that do businesses with cannabis companies.

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Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.





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