The House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The legislation was passed 24 to 10 creating a high chance of approval in the full House where Democrats currently control the chamber with 234 seats.
The passing of this bill would likely be a tougher battle in the Republican-controlled Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes marijuana legalization.
“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,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in his opening statement.
As of now, 11 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Medical marijuana prescribed by physicians is currently legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C. The bill would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances, allowing states to enact their own marijuana policy and require federal courts to expunge prior convictions for marijuana offenses, opening the floor for exoneration for people with lower level marijuana offenses. A 5% tax on marijuana products would also establish a trust fund for programs designed to help people disproportionately impacted by the “war on drugs,” including job training and treatment for substance abuse.