The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would effectively make marijuana legal, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) announced in a press release on Wednesday (Nov. 20).
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 passed by a count of 24-10. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (D-NY), and co-sponsored by more than 50 lawmakers.
The bill would also introduce a 5 percent sales tax on cannabis sales in states where it’s legal, according to the bill, and establish an organization — the Cannabis Justice Office — to administer services for individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the NCIA, said the landmark vote “marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered.”
He pointed to the “undeniable success” of state-run cannabis programs as one of the drivers that is fostering change.
Under the MORE Act, marijuana would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act, federally legalizing cannabis across the country. In addition, past federal cannabis convictions would be required to be expunged.
A November Pew Research Center survey indicated that 75 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, an increase over the past 10 years. Adults who oppose legalization dropped from 52 percent in 2010 to 32 percent in 2019.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, marijuana arrests account for more than half of all U.S. drug arrests.
In passing the bill, lawmakers cited the “disproportionate impact” drug laws have had on minorities. The decriminalization of marijuana would tip the scales on that imbalance, CNBC reported.
“The criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said during the markup of the bill, as reported by CNBC. “The racial disparity in marijuana enforcement laws only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”
Federal legalization could also open more payment channels. Currently, regulations vary by state, making compliance a burden and creating a banking conundrum for a market forced to rely heavily on cash.