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Historic congressional vote on decriminalizing marijuana could happen in December

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Posted at 10:50 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 11:57:03-05

A historic bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level is expected to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives in December.

This would be the first time a chamber of Congress has ever voted on removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

Cannabis was included as what is called a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. Schedule I drugs are defined as having a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote.

“I write to share the busy Floor schedule we have for the remainder of the year,” starts a letter from Representative Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader. “In December … the House will vote on the MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis and expunge convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses that have prevented many Americans from getting jobs, applying for credit and loans, and accessing opportunities that make it possible to get ahead in our economy.”

The MORE Act - Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act - includes language that would expunge some cannabis records and create grant opportunities for people who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of marijuana in addition to removing it from its Schedule I classification.

The act is sponsored by now-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and co-sponsored by seven other representatives including New Jersey Congressman Cory Booker and Massachusetts Congresswoman Elizabeth Warren.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is opposed to the act, and some say the odds of it passing the senate, even if it passes the House, are very slim.

Marijuana is already legal in more than a dozen states, despite the federal designation as a Schedule I drug.

Studies show more people support the legalization of marijuana. A 2019 Gallup poll showed majority-support across major political parties for legalizing marijuana. It showed 51% of Republicans, 68% of independents, and 76% of Democrats are in favor of it.

During the November election, medical and recreational marijuana use was on the ballot in a handful of states. Four states, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, voted to make recreational marijuana use legal in their states. And Mississippi voters approved marijuana for medical use.

Even if the MORE Act passes both chambers of Congress, it would not make sales of marijuana legal. Regulation of marijuana would be left to states to decide how to handle it.