Yes we cannabis! House of Representatives votes to legalize marijuana

Washington D.C. - The US House of Representatives on Friday passed a sweeping reform bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and eliminate many non-violent criminal records.

The House passed a landmark bill to decriminalize cannabis.
The House passed a landmark bill to decriminalize cannabis.  © imago images / ZUMA Wire

Advocates say it is a key step towards ending failed drug policies, which have disproportionately affected minority groups and lower income population.

The bill, which includes a proposed tax to help community programmes, was proposed by the Democrats and nearly all lawmakers in the party voted in favor. They were joined by a handful of libertarian-leaning Republicans, with a final vote of 228-164.

The bill will likely stall in the Republican-controlled Senate, but the passage of a comprehensive plan in the lower chamber could push President-elect Joe Biden to take executive action on cannabis after he takes office in January.

Pro-cannabis movement among Democrats

Kamala Harris has been an outspoken proponent of decriminalizing pot use on the federal level.
Kamala Harris has been an outspoken proponent of decriminalizing pot use on the federal level.  © imago images / ZUMA Wire

"For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health," said Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the bill's sponsor.

He condemned "the failed policy of criminalizing marijuana."

Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect representing California for another month, is the Senate co-sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, a bill that removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and pushes states to provide weed entrepreneurs with the same support they give to other small businesses.

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Harris said that Congress "must act to remove the burden of marijuana convictions," adding that the criminal records act is a roadblock to job and housing opportunities.

Biden - once a tough-on-crime senator - has staked out some more moderate positions in his presidential campaign.

The move mirrors that of many Democrats who have shifted from supporting the war on drugs to new policies coupled with wider policing and judicial reforms.

Cannabis is currently legal in a number of US states, whether for medical or recreational use. The November election saw a number of pro-cannabis ballot measures pass in both Republican and Democratic states. More states are pushing toward legalization in 2021.

Cover photo: imago images / ZUMA Wire

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