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Bill would end cannabis prohibition–but must pass in the Senate first
by Dessy Pavlova · May 27, 2022
On April 1, 2022, The House of Representatives passed The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, the latest attempt to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. This Act is the most recent example of the steady shift in public opinion towards ending marijuana prohibition and instead creating a new industry and source of tax revenue for the federal government.
While 37 states already permit medical marijuana use and 18 have fully legalized recreational use, the federal government still treats marijuana as a drug in the same class as cocaine and heroin, resulting in laws that not only disproportionately affect people of color but have complicated the process of state-recognized cannabis business to do their banking effectively.
The MORE Act, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Jerrod Nadler of New Jersey, attempts to correct the injustices of drug prohibition that have devastated black and brown communities. Democrats in the House hail the bill as an important step towards racial justice, as people of color are four times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges, even though their rates of use are no higher. The bill would end the process of arrest and incarceration that has damaged so many communities and families for decades, expunging marijuana records back to 1971 and releasing thousands of inmates, which would in turn save the government $3 billion over a decade.
The bill is expected to die in the Senate, where Republicans remain firmly against decriminalizing cannabis. A previous bill introduced in December 2020 failed similarly, facing resistance from the GOP. Opponents of legalization claim that marijuana is a gateway to harder drugs like opiates, pointing to the current opioid epidemic as a reason to avoid legalizing other mind-altering substances. Whatever the validity or weakness of the opposing arguments, the introduction of a new bill and a renewed effort by U.S. lawmakers to federally decriminalize cannabis underlies the steady shift in public opinion towards the plant for medical and recreational use. The bill appears to be popular among the American People, 68% of whom support cannabis legalization in a recent Gallup poll.
The economic benefits of legalizing cannabis federally would be significant. Those who have been prosecuted for drug offenses have a lower quality of life and have difficulty finding employment. The same people, free of prosecution for marijuana offenses, would in themselves be a boost to the economy with steady work and money to spend. With legal cannabis sales reaching $17 billion in 2020 and expected to exceed $40 Billion by 2026, it may at some point in the near future make more sense to tap into such a rapidly growing revenue stream than to keep resisting similar legislation.