On Friday (Dec. 4), the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that would decriminalize marijuana use at the federal level.
According to ABC News, the bill passed 228-164 — with only five Republicans voting in favor of the law. Six Democrats voted in opposition of the new bill. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler argued that 36 states and Washington D.C. have already legalized medical marijuana. He also said that 15 states and D.C. have legalized cannabis for recreational use.
Nadler believes the law “would reverse the failed policy of criminalizing 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 color.”
“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust,” Nadler continued. “I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color.”
Before the bill was passed, Republicans spoke out in opposition, blaming marijuana for an increase in traffic fatalities and for being a gateway drug.
“Marijuana is one of the most abused substances on this planet,” Rep. Greg Murphy argued. “Legalizing weed would create revenue from taxes, but at what cost? Do we then start legalizing cocaine? Marijuana is a gateway drug — make no mistake about that. It undoubtably leads to further and much more dangerous drug use.”
Aside from decriminalizing cannabis, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act would also require all former marijuana convictions to be reassessed, create funding for cannabis-related businesses and fund services for people wrapped up in the war on drugs.