The House Judiciary Committee recently went further than anyone else has in changing federal law to legalize recreational marijuana — everywhere. The bill passed by the committee would remove marijuana from the Schedule 1 class of drugs (where it quite obviously does not belong). The bill passed in a 24-10 vote. But how far can it go beyond there? That’s the real question.
Democrats control a majority 234 seats in the House of Representatives, which means the bill could theoretically pass through there easily enough. But Republicans mostly oppose new marijuana legislation, and they control the Senate. More importantly, most Republicans are also under Mitch McConnell’s Jedi mind spell. If he says jump into a flaming abyss, they ask whether or not they should do it naked. And McConnell opposes marijuana legalization.
The legislation isn’t particularly far-reaching in comparison to pass marijuana initiatives, but it’s still bigger and better than anything put forth before now, and the first one in the House. Basically, all it would do is provide states with the authority to draft and implement their own policies (which some states are obviously already doing, federal government be damned).
The bill also does two very important things: First, it would eliminate criminal records for those who have been convicted of (and are possibly still incarcerated for) low-level marijuana-related criminal activities. Second, it would implement a 5 percent tax on all cannabis sales. Those monies would then be funnelled into programs that support individuals and communities that have been adversely — and disproportionately — affected by the failed War on Drugs.
This would make an enormous difference in drug arrests and convictions in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union acknowledged that eliminating marijuana-related crimes would reduce drug-related arrests by more than half. That’s a huge difference in the welfare of people who aren’t actually doing anything wrong, even though current laws say they are.
Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said, “The criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake. The racial disparity in marijuana enforcement laws only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”
To make matters worse, the Democratic frontrunner for the 2020 presidential election is still Joe Biden (even though he’s faltering to others in the early primary states), who has gone on record as saying he doesn’t believe in lifting the prohibition on marijuana.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said, “I don’t think a majority of the Republicans will support this bill. It is even less likely that the Senate would take it up. Therefore, I would just suggest we deal with other bills that we can get a much larger bipartisan support from.”
Nadler replied, “I don’t think it’s a good idea…to say, ‘the Senate won’t take this bill.’ When the House passes a bill, it’s part of a continuing process. It’s not the end of a process.”