Cannabis Legalization Bill Passes Historic First House Committee Vote

“These steps are long overdue" New York Democrat and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler Photo: Shutterstock

MORE Act clears Judiciary Committee, but will need to get through seven more groups before hitting House floor

The House Judiciary Committee approved a new bill to end cannabis prohibition Wednesday, marking the first time a marijuana legalization bill has been approved by Congressional committee.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act passed out of committee by a vote of 24 to 10. Two Republican representatives, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Tom McClintock of California, joined the 22 democrats who voted for the bill.

New York Democrat and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler introduced the MORE Act, which would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level by removing it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It also includes a focus on restorative justice, giving states incentives to expunge the criminal records of people with low-level marijuana offenses and instating a five percent tax on cannabis products that would go towards programs benefiting communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.

“These steps are long overdue,” Nadler said in a statement. “For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of a matter of personal choice and public health. Whatever one’s views on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating users at the federal level is unwise and unjust.”

While the House Judiciary Committee vote marked a historic moment in the effort to legalize marijuana in the United States, the MORE Act faces a long road towards passage. Seven more House committees must approve or waive the bill before it gets a vote on the House floor, and while it’s possible the MORE Act could pass in the Democrat-controlled House, it’s fate in the Senate is far less certain.

“I don’t think a majority of the Republicans will support this bill,” said Colorado Republican and Committee member Ken Buck, per CNBC. “It is even less likely that the Senate would take it up. Therefore, I would just suggest that we deal with other bills that we can get a much larger bipartisan support from.”

Should the MORE Act pass the house, California Senator Kamala Harris has already introduced a companion bill in the Senate.