Marijuana legalization bill nears House floor vote next week
Legislation to legalize marijuana at the federal level will be teed up for a House floor vote as soon as next week.
The House Rules Committee announced Thursday that it will hold a hearing regarding the bill on Monday, which is the final step before consideration on the floor.
House leaders also placed the measure on a list of bills expected to be considered on the House floor next week.
The bill, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and titled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, would remove cannabis from the list of federal controlled substances and eliminate criminal penalties associated with the drug.
It would also impose a federal tax on marijuana sales to fund programs to help communities negatively impacted by the war on drugs.
The measure would further seek establish a process to expunge previous marijuana-related convictions.
“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. The racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only made it worse, with serious consequences, particularly for communities of color,” Nadler said when the House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill last fall.
The House passed a version of the legislation in December 2020 largely along party lines. At the time, six centrist Democrats voted against the bill while five Republicans backed it.
The bill didn’t advance in the Senate because it was controlled by Republicans at the time and the vote occurred near the end of that session of Congress.
Some states have already moved to legalize marijuana in some form.
At least 37 states, four territories and the District of Columbia allow cannabis products for medical use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A smaller number — 18 states, two territories and the nation’s capital — have enacted measures to permit cannabis for nonmedical use.
The marijuana legalization effort has a key ally in Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), even if GOP reluctance on the issue means it may be blocked in the upper chamber.
Schumer said earlier this year that he was aiming to introduce legislation as soon as April to lift the federal prohibition on cannabis.
“As majority leader, I can set priorities. This is a priority for me,” Schumer said at the time.