US House passes cannabis decriminalisation bill in historic vote

In an historic move towards ending the war on drugs, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill to decriminalise cannabis at the American federal level.

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act calls for the removal of cannabis from the federal drug scheduling system and to expunge criminal records related to possessing, distributing, and producing the drug.

The bill also includes measures to allow cannabis business owners easier access to grants and loans, taxing retail cannabis sales, and the setup of a trust fund for job training and ethnic communities negatively affected by the war on drugs.

Cannabis sales California

Though vice president-elect Kamala Harris supports legalisation of cannabis, president-elect Joe Biden only backs decriminalisation. Outgoing president Donald Trump has rejected calls for federal legalisation, instead calling for states to decide themselves.

It is important to remember that the MORE Act will not legalise cannabis at the national level, but will instead remove a major hurdle towards state legalisation. So far, 15 US states have legalised recreational usage including Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota as a result of the 2020 presidential election.

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz was one of two Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who voted for the MORE Act, and the only Republican out of 55 cosponsors of the bill. He stated:

“The federal government has lied to the people of this country about marijuana for a generation… If we were measuring the success of the war on drugs, drugs have won.”

While a step in the right direction towards ending the war on drugs, the bill is expected to not make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. As with Australian politics, it must make it past two stages of voting to become law.

Despite this obstacle, there is a potential scenario where the Senate becomes Democrat-controlled through two runoff elections in Georgia next month. This outcome would allow for the bill to be passed into law.

Considering that many private US businesses including the NBA and NFL have now suspended cannabis testing and that the United Nations has downgraded the drug’s danger rating, it seems only a matter of time before cannabis becomes globally accepted at the legislative level.

As for here in Australia, cannabis usage increased during lockdown and the drug is legal for medical purposes at the federal level. However, recreational use remains illegal in some states and territories. The closest to this status is the Australian Capital Territory, which legalised personal use last year.