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House passes sweeping reform bill to decriminalize marijuana

The House on Friday passed sweeping legislation that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, the first time either chamber of Congress has voted to legalize cannabis.

The measure, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, passed on a largely party-line vote of 228-164.

Six Democrats voted against the legislation and five Republicans voted for it. The GOP-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the measure.

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The legislation would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge some marijuana convictions for nonviolent criminals.

“The MORE Act is a common-sense bill that will make a tangible, real difference in the lives of millions of Americans. I'm proud of this bill centered around ideals of racial, economic, and moral justice and I look forward to the House passing it today,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPelosi names 9 impeachment managers Republicans gauge support for Trump impeachment Clyburn blasts DeVos and Chao for 'running away' from 25th Amendment fight MORE (D-N.Y.), who introduced the bill, tweeted before Friday’s vote.

The bill would allow states to continue to establish their own rules and regulations regarding sales and access to medical marijuana. Individuals would no longer be prosecuted federally for marijuana offenses, leaving the question of legality to states.

Recreational cannabis is legal in 15 states and Washington, D.C., and 34 states have legalized medical marijuana.

“We’re here because we have failed three generations of Black and Brown young people, whose lives can be ruined, or lost, by selective enforcement of these laws. This legislation will end that disaster. It's time for Congress to step up and do its part,” said Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerInauguration parties lose the glitz and glamour in 2021 Four things Democrats should do in Biden's first 100 days House Republican wants restrictions on masks with messages MORE (D-Ore.), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, on the House floor.

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Republicans who voted in favor of the legislation included Reps. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastTapper battles GOP lawmakers over criticism of Afghan vet's Electoral College vote Republican war veteran gives Guard troops a tour of the Capitol LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to impeach Trump after Capitol insurrection MORE (Fla.), Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCheney tests Trump grip on GOP post-presidency Florida Republicans close ranks with Trump after Capitol siege The Memo: Historic vote leaves Trump more isolated than ever MORE (Fla.), Tom McClintockThomas (Tom) Milller McClintockAn attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation Coalition of 7 conservative House Republicans says they won't challenge election results Five Republicans vote for bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (Calif.), Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanFormer Republican congressman: 'Impeachment is necessary' Outgoing GOP congressman criticizes Hawley for fundraising off Electoral College challenge Virginia county Republicans condemn GOP congressman for considering vote for Biden MORE (Va.), and Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Five Republicans vote for bill to decriminalize marijuana House passes sweeping reform bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (Alaska).

Senate Republicans have declined to take up similar legislation passed by the House. In September 2019, the House passed a measure that would allow banks to work with cannabis businesses, but it has not advanced in the Senate.

Friday's bill was backed by groups like the National Cannabis Industry Association, the Marijuana Policy Project and the American Civil Liberties Union, which all lobbied for its passage.

The anti-cannabis group Smart Approaches to Marijuana criticized the House vote on Friday.

“It’s an unserious bill that was voted on in an unserious manner and we rest easily knowing there is zero interest in moving this bill in the Senate and zero interest in supporting it in either the current administration or the incoming one,” said the group’s president, Kevin Sabet. 

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He added that Congress should be focused instead on coronavirus relief. 

“Every lawmaker and lobbyist who voted on this and spent even a second working to pass this bill should be ashamed of themselves,” Sabet said.

Updated at 2:22 p.m.