House Moves To Federally Legalize Marijuana

Written By BlabberBuzz | Wednesday, 30 March 2022 12:00
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The House is expected to pass legislation this week that would legalize marijuana, just the latest example of the rapidly changing attitudes on drug laws that marks a near reverse from the Reagan-era war on drugs that also reverberated through the 1990s.

The bill legalizing marijuana has near-uniform support among Democrats and a top ally in Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who has been aiming to introduce a similar measure this spring.

And it’s just one of several pieces of legislation that highlights the change in Congress’s perspective — a difference that has come about partially because of the way past drug laws have disproportionately hit minority communities.

“This Congress represents a sea change,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“What we have seen is that the majority of people now realize that the war on drugs failed,” Blumenauer told The Hill. “Drugs are more accessible and cheaper and more potent and dangerous. Nobody won this war, except people who were involved with the drug dealers themselves.”

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The House has voted twice in the past year, most recently as part of legislation to bolster U.S. competitiveness, allowing legally operating cannabis businesses to use banking services and credit cards instead of working cash-only.

The Senate passed a bill to extend scientific and medical research on marijuana and its compounds, including cannabidiol.

The burst of action in Congress isn’t limited to marijuana legalization. The House passed a bipartisan bill last fall — by a margin of 361-66 — to eliminate the federal disparity in prison sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses. All of the votes in opposition were from Republicans, though a majority of the House GOP overall joined all Democrats in support.

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The issue was also raised in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings this week by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who asked nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson if she thinks there should be no such disparity in sentencing.

The bill called the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act, or EQUAL Act, also has the backing of law enforcement organizations like the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

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Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) became the 10th Senate Republican to back the legislation, paving the way for likely passage in the upper chamber. Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a regular centrist swing vote, also signed on to the bill in recent days.

“I think they understand we’ve got to take a more innovative path. We need to understand addiction. We can’t just incarcerate our way out of these problems. And we sure can’t continue to turn a blind eye to an egregious injustice, like this crack-powder disparity,” said Holly Harris, President of the Justice Action Network, which advocates for criminal justice reform.

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