The US House of Representatives voted to federally legalise cannabis on Friday, passing the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act by 220 votes to 204.
Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee chairman and New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, the bill would see cannabis removed from the Controlled Substances Act, criminal penalties for federal offences eliminated and past convictions expunged.
However, while it won bipartisan support in the House, with three Republican Representatives voting in favour, it is unlikely to get the 60 votes it needs to pass in the Senate.
Nadler said: “This bill reverses decades of failed federal policies based on the criminalisation of marijuana by legalising marijuana, retroactively expunging previous convictions and more.”
“Criminal penalties for marijuana offences, and the resulting collateral consequences, are unjust and harmful to our society. The bill sets a new path forward and would begin to correct some of the injustices of the last 50 years.”
The House 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.
Meanwhile, Friday was also the first day recreational cannabis sales were legal in New Mexico.
Anyone aged 21-plus can now buy up to two ounces (57 grams) of cannabis or comparable amounts of liquid concentrates and edibles. First-day sales were reported to have topped US$2 million.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said the move responded to popular demand and would create jobs in the state.
She added: “This is what consumers want. We have the potential for 11,000 more workers, jobs in places where young people can work and stay.”