On Wednesday, November 20, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that legalizes marijuana on the federal level, effectively removing it from schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.
The legislation passed 24 to 10, reports CNBC. According to reports, it has a high chance of approval in the House where Democrats control the chamber with 234 seats. The bill will undoubtedly face scrutiny in the Republican-controlled Senate — particularly by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization.
The legislation allows states to enact their own policies on cannabis, as well as offers incentive to clear criminal records of people with low-level marijuana charges. The bill includes a 5% tax on cannabis products that would provide job training and legal assistance to those most affected by the war on drugs.
Over 100 peer-reviewed studies have concluded that components of the herb, primarily CBD, have the potential to remedy dozens of modern-day afflictions. In addition, the US National Cancer Institute lists cannabis as a potential remedy for cancer on its website. Despite the plethora of evidence that herb has medicinal properties, marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug arrests in the US, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
On Wednesday, lawmakers repeatedly cited the disproportionate impact drug laws have had on communities of color. By decriminalizing marijuana, they said, the imbalance is somewhat alleviated.
“The criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” said Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., during the markup of the bill. “The racial disparity in marijuana enforcement laws only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has called the legislation the “biggest marijuana news of the year.” The bill has over 50 co-sponsors, according to Congress.gov. It also has the backing of presidential contender Sen Kamala Harris.
Only 11 states in the US and District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. 33 states, on the other hand, have welcomed medical marijuana as prescribed by physicians. This monumental news follows House-passed legislation that would protect banks that serve marijuana businesses in states where the crop is legal.
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