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The Democrat-controlled House voted to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking a symbolic major victory for both marijuana rights advocates and criminal justice reform.
The bill calls for the removal of cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances, and erasing certain federal convictions.
"This bill decriminalises marijuana," it says.
"Specifically, it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana."
Other proposed changes under the bill include a 'trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs' and replacing statutory references to 'marijuana and marihuana with cannabis'.
It passed today by a 228-164 vote with just five Republicans - and one independent - supporting the measure.
However, the Republican-controlled Senate has suggested it's unlikely to take up the measure.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler, who said in a statement that the legalisation would help address the 'mistake' of cannabis' criminalisation and its 'radically disparate enforcement'.
I'm so proud that the MORE Act passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 228 to 164. I introduced this bill to provide restorative justice, modernize America's cannabis laws, and deliver meaningful investments to America's communities & small businesses.
Now, let's make it law. pic.twitter.com/sByrmUF5ZQ
- Rep. Nadler (@RepJerryNadler) December 4, 2020
He said: "This long-overdue legislation would reverse the failed policy of criminalising 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 colour."
Speaking during House floor debate before the vote, Rep. Earl Blumenauer - an Oregon Democrat and one of the bill's chief architects - said: "We're not rushing to legalise marijuana. The American people have already done that. We're here because Congress has failed to deal with a disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 15 million marijuana users in every one of your districts."
He added: "It's time for Congress to step up and do its part. We need to catch up with the rest of the American people."
Maritza Perez, director of the office of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance - a group advocating for the decriminalisation of drugs - said: "With this vote, Congress is recognising the disproportionate impact enforcement has had on our communities and calling for the unjust status quo to be disrupted."
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