In what was largely a symbolic move, the House of Representatives voted on Friday to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level.
Don’t spark up just yet, though.
Vice reports that the bill is unlikely to pass through the Republican-controlled Senate. The measure, titled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, would potentially remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allow states to decide for themselves how to regulate it.
The act would expunge the records of those previously convicted on marijuana charges, as well as mandate resentencing for anyone currently incarcerated on marijuana charges. It would also prevent marijuana from affecting a person’s immigration status or ability to obtain federally subsidized housing.
This sounds like it could be a genuinely positive development for a large swath of the population. It’s not as though there isn’t support among the public for legalization either, as polls show two-thirds of Americans are all about it.
Alas, the decision to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level falls upon old-ass politicians who probably don’t know the joy of popping a few edibles and watching Blade Runner 2049 in an IMAX theater.
I’m not saying that I did that two or three times when it was in theaters, but I’m also not not saying it.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and one of the key figures behind the bill, argued that the bill wasn’t just about legalizing marijuana, saying during a debate on the House floor that voters are more or less already doing that on the state level.
“We’re here because Congress has failed to deal with a disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 15 million marijuana users in every one of your districts,” Blumenauer told his colleagues in the House. “It’s time for Congress to step up and do its part. We need to catch up with the rest of the American people.”
While this was the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on marijuana decriminalization, recent years have seen voters in red and blue states vote to legalize its recreational and medicinal use. In the 2020 election voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voted to legalize recreational use. Medicinal marijuana is currently legal in 38 of the 50 states, which is incredible progress considering that it was still illegal in all 50 states just a decade ago.
Even on the off chance the bill manages to pass through the Senate, President-elect Joe Biden has previously indicated he had no desire to legalize marijuana, and the sitting president seems so consumed by his election loss to probably even care. So again, this is a largely symbolic measure, but at least it shows the House kind of has a feeling for what the country wants.
Emphasis on kind of.