The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill to federally legalise cannabis tomorrow (Friday) after a hearing considered amendments to the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman and New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, if passed into law the bill would see cannabis removed from the Controlled Substances Act. Criminal penalties for federal offences would be eliminated and past convictions expunged.
It would also establish a tax on retail cannabis sales, with the revenue raised reinvested in communities affected by prohibition.
The House of Representatives voted to pass a version of the bill in December 2020 by a majority of 228 to 164, with the vote going mostly along party lines. However, it was left to languish in the Senate, which was controlled by the Republicans at the time.
Since then, the Democrats have won control of the upper chamber via vice president Kamala Harris’s casting vote. Tech giants Apple and Amazon have both expressed their support for the act.
At a hearing of the House Rules Committee, a number of amendments were cleared, including clarity that protections for immigrants cover the “possession or use of cannabis that is no longer prohibited pursuant to this Act or an amendment made by this Act”.
An amendment was also cleared to provide US$10 million to conduct research on “technologies and methods that law enforcement may use to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana”.
Meanwhile, a new report has revealed a significant drop in the number of federal offenders charged with cannabis-related crimes in 2021.
According to data from the US Sentencing Commission, just under 1,000 people were charged federally with violating cannabis laws in 2021, less than 6% of those charged with drug offences during the year.
This compares with almost 7,000 10 years ago — more than the number of people charged with any other drug violation that year. By 2016, the figure was below 3,500 and it has continued to fall steadily since then.