Landmark bill approved to legalize marijuana at federal level
This Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill, legalizing marijuana on the federal level. This bill also removes it from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. Now, the legislation has a high chance of approval. While the full House is controlled by Democrats with 234 seats, this will likely be contradicted by Republicans with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who opposes the legalization of the drug.
The legislation will give states the permission to enact their own policies and give incentives to expunge criminal records of people who committed low-level marijuana offenses. It will also impose a 5% tax on cannabis products that will be used for job training and provide legal assistance to those who were hit by the current war on drugs.
In a survey by the American Civil Liberties Union, marijuana arrests make up more than half of all drug arrests in the U.S. Lawmakers have repeatedly cited the disproportionate impact of drug laws and its effect on people of color. They said that decriminalizing marijuana will alleviate the imbalance.
In the article provided by CNBC, Chairman Representative Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. stated "The criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. The racial disparity in marijuana enforcement laws only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities."
There were Republican members who questioned the bill, their concern that the bill is going too far and how it will unlikely be taken up in the senate. Representative Ken Buck, R-Colorado, said "I don't think a majority of the Republicans will support this bill .It is even less likely that the Senate would take it up. Therefore, I would suggest that we deal with other bills that we can get a much larger bipartisan support from."
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In response to this, Nadler stated how House Democrats can negotiate with the Senate, allowing room for change in order to gain acknowledgment from Republicans. "I don't think it's a good idea... to say, 'the Senate won't take this bill,'When the House passes a bill, it's part of a continuing process. It's not the end of a process" Nadler replied.
The NORML, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, expresses that this legislation is the "biggest marijuana news of the year."
In a research conducted by the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans actually supports the legalization of the drug. The bill now has more than 50 co-sponsors. Backers of the Senate version of the legislation includes presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris.
In the article, CNBC states how 11 states in the U.S. legalized cannabis for recreational use. Meanwhile, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and in Washington.