A divided U.S. House committee permitted a proposal Wednesday to decriminalize and tax marijuana on the federal stage, a vote that was alternately described as a momentous change in nationwide hashish coverage and a hole political gesture.
The House Judiciary Committee permitted the proposal 24-10 after greater than two hours of debate. It would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition by eradicating marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, whereas permitting states to set their very own guidelines on pot.
The vote “marks a turning level for federal hashish coverage and is actually an indication that prohibition’s days are numbered,” Aaron Smith, government director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, mentioned in a press release.
Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine known as the vote “a historic step ahead for hashish coverage reform.”
The vote got here at a time when most Americans stay in states the place marijuana is authorized in some type, and committee members from each events agreed that nationwide hashish coverage lagged behind modifications on the state stage. That divide has created a number of issues. Loans and different banking companies, for instance, are arduous to get for a lot of marijuana firms as a result of pot stays unlawful on the federal stage.
The House invoice’s future is unsure. It wasn’t instantly clear if the proposal could be reviewed by different committees, nor was it clear when or whether or not a vote would happen within the full House. The proposal has higher probabilities of passing within the Democratic-controlled chamber than within the Republican-held Senate.
The House handed a invoice earlier this 12 months to grant authorized marijuana companies entry to banking, however it hasn’t superior within the Senate.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee complained that the proposal to decriminalize hashish had by no means had a listening to and lacked the bipartisan help wanted to develop into regulation.
“It’s going nowhere,” mentioned Representative Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican.
Among its provisions, the laws would authorize a 5% gross sales tax on marijuana merchandise to fund applications aimed toward helping individuals and communities harmed within the battle in opposition to medication, akin to job coaching and authorized help. It additionally would require federal courts to expunge prior marijuana convictions.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, mentioned the nation has for too lengthy “handled marijuana as a prison justice downside, as a substitute of a matter of non-public alternative and public well being.”
“Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating customers on the federal stage is unwise and unjust,” he mentioned. “The racial disparity in enforcement of marijuana legal guidelines has solely compounded this error with severe penalties, notably for minority communities.”