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US News - Comprehensive Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes House Committee in Historic Vote

A COMPREHENSIVE marijuana legalization measure passed the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, marking the first time that a sweeping cannabis reform bill has cleared a congressional committee.

The passage comes on the heels of a full House vote in September approving a measure that would protect banks that do business with cannabis companies and signals that nationwide marijuana legalization is no longer a fringe issue in Congress.

But despite the historic vote, the reform measure faces uncertain odds of reaching the House floor and has a near-zero chance of being put up for a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, but 11 states now have laws on the books legalizing the recreational use of the drug and nearly three dozen states have legal medical marijuana programs.

The House Judiciary panel voted 24-10 to approve the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, which was introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. Two Republicans – Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Rep. Tom McClintock of California – voted with Democrats to pass the bill.

The comprehensive measure ties together several policies popular among progressives: It would remove criminal penalties for marijuana, take the drug off the federal controlled substances list, expunge conviction records and invest money into communities that have been disproportionately affected by prohibition.

Advocates, many of whom see marijuana legalization as a social justice issue because of the effect of prohibition on certain communities, cheered the bill's passage.

"This is a truly historic moment in our nation's political history. For the first time, a Congressional committee has approved far-reaching legislation to not just put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, but to address the countless harms our prohibitionist policies have wrought, notably on communities of color and other already marginalized groups," Erik Altieri, executive director that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a statement.

Author: Claire Hansen, Staff Writer

Date: Nov. 20, 2019, at 4:00 p.m.


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