US House votes 228-164 to pass historic bill decriminalizing cannabis, bill moves to Senate

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during the impeachment of President Donald Trump on Dec. 18, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Friday’s historic vote comes as more states have legalized recreational marijuana use.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted Friday to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. It was the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on the issue.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, would decriminalize cannabis and create a pathway for expunging previous nonviolent federal marijuana convictions. The proposal would also open up small business association funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses.

Report said, while the bill passed in the House by a vote of 228-164, it’s unlikely that the Republican-controlled Senate will even consider the legislation in the last two weeks of the current session of Congress.

Friday’s vote came just days after the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from a category of the world’s most dangerous drugs.

The historic vote comes as more states have legalized marijuana use.

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A decade ago, recreational marijuana was illegal in all 50 states. Voters allowed it in Colorado and Washington in 2012, sparking a movement that now includes 15 states and Washington, D.C. Medical marijuana is legal in 36 states. Supporters have hoped that additional victories, especially in conservative states, could build pressure for Congress to legalize marijuana nationwide.

One of the bill’s original sponsors, Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, presided over the House debate on the proposal Thursday while wearing a face mask that featured cannabis leaves.

Republicans in the House have criticized Democrats for moving forward on marijuana legalization while Congress tries to deal with other major issues before the year is up.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Thursday Democrats were “focused on cats and cannabis instead of COVID.”