For the First Time Ever, the House Votes To Repeal the Federal Ban on Marijuana

The bill is unlikely to make headway in the Senate, but it could nudge President-elect Joe Biden toward more ambitious reforms.


Today, for the first time ever, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the federal ban on marijuana, which was originally imposed 83 years ago in the guise of a revenue measure. The vote was 228 to 164, with five Republicans—including Matt Gaetz of Florida, who cosponsored the bill—joining 222 Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) in supporting the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and eliminate federal criminal penalties for cultivation, distribution, and possession.

The MORE Act, which was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D–N.Y.), is unlikely to get a friendly reception in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) has supported industrial hemp but opposed legalization of psychoactive cannabis. Today's vote is still a milestone in the fight against marijuana prohibition, and the House's endorsement of federal legalization may nudge President-elect Joe Biden to support less sweeping reforms that nevertheless go further than anything he has advocated so far. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who sponsored the Senate version of the MORE Act, could have a positive influence in that respect.

In addition to removing marijuana from the CSA's schedules of controlled substances, the MORE Act would require automatic expungement of federal marijuana convictions. Currently there is no expungement process at all for federal crimes, and state expungement typically requires petitions by individual offenders. The bill would require judges to vacate the sentences of people currently serving time for federal marijuana offenses when they request a hearing. It also would prohibit the denial of federal public benefits because of convictions involving cannabis consumption and eliminate immigration disabilities based on marijuana-related conduct.

Less promisingly, the bill would impose a 5 percent federal tax on cannabis products, rising to 6 percent after two years, 7 percent after three years, and 8 percent after four years. The revenue would be assigned to drug treatment, "services for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs," loans for marijuana businesses owned by "socially and economically disadvantaged individuals," and grants aimed at reducing "barriers to cannabis licensing and employment for individuals adversely impacted by the War on Drugs."

Gaetz and Amash proposed an unsuccessful amendment that would have eliminated those "social equity" provisions. Four Republicans—Reps. Tom McClintock (Calif.), Don Young (Alaska), Denver Riggleman (Va.), and Brian Mast (Fla.)—joined Gaetz and Amash in voting for the final bill.

Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use; 15 states and D.C. have taken the further step of legalizing recreational use. The latter jurisdictions account for roughly a third of the U.S. population and now include two deep-red states, Montana and South Dakota, which joined Arizona and New Jersey in legalizing recreational marijuana by ballot initiative last month. According to the latest Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans, including 83 percent of Democrats and nearly half of Republicans, favor legalization. Yet as Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D–Ore.), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, notes, marijuana "remains criminalized at the federal level, destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and wasting billions of dollars on the selective enforcement of an outdated and harmful system."

The MORE Act would resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, which casts a dark shadow over the burgeoning cannabis industry. State-licensed marijuana businesses engage in federal felonies every day, which exposes them to the ongoing risk of prosecution and asset forfeiture, mitigated only by the Justice Department's enforcement discretion and an annual congressional spending rider that protects medical marijuana providers. That legal peril makes basic business functions such as banking and paying taxes needlessly risky, difficult, costly, and complicated.

During his confirmation hearing last year, Attorney General William Barr rightly described this situation as "untenable." Barr, an old-fashioned drug warrior, made it clear that he is not a fan of legalization. "We either should have a federal law that prohibits marijuana everywhere, which I would support myself, because I think it's a mistake to back off from marijuana," he said, or "if we want a federal approach, if we want states to have their own laws, let's get there, and let's get there the right way." In response to a question from Sen. Thom Tillis (R–N.C.), Barr clarified that he meant Congress should change federal law if it wants the states free to set their own marijuana policies.

Descheduling marijuana, as the MORE Act would do, is the most straightforward way to accomplish that. It is consistent with the federalism typically espoused by Republican members of Congress, with Biden's support of medical marijuana, and with his promise to "leave decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states." Yet Biden, a supposedly reformed drug warrior, continues to support federal marijuana prohibition, unlike most of the candidates he beat for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Harris. He favors only minor marijuana reforms that would not address the contradiction between state laws that treat cannabis suppliers as legitimate businesses and federal laws that treat them as criminal enterprises.

"I have been waiting for this historic moment for a long time," Blumenauer said. "It is happening today because it has been demanded by the voters, by facts, and by the momentum behind this issue. This is an opportunity to strike a blow against the failed war on drugs, [which] has literally destroyed hundreds of thousands of young Black lives."

Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association, likewise emphasized the significance of passing the bill, even if it is not taken up by the Senate. "The symbolic and historical importance of the MORE Act passing in the House cannot be overstated," he said. "This vote stands as a rebuke of failed and harmful prohibition policies, and represents a growing understanding of their racially and economically disparate impacts. Americans are increasingly ready to see cannabis legal for adults and sensibly regulated, which they showed through their representatives today and at the ballot box last month."

[This post has been revised to correct the number of states that allow medical use of marijuana.]

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84 responses to “For the First Time Ever, the House Votes To Repeal the Federal Ban on Marijuana

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    2. Poor unreason. Democrats need legal weed because Trump is getting his second term as president.

      1. Remember when unreason advocated repealing the Controlled substances act because its unconstitutional? Me either.

        Even the prohibitionists knew that they needed a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol.

  2. Had Reason spent more time advocating cannabis legalization during the past four years (instead of smearing Trump daily), more Republicans in Congress (and perhaps Trump) would likely have endorsed legalizing weed.

    1. Reason has that much influence? Holy fucking shit!

      1. We’ll never know.

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    2. And, let's face it, legal weed is the only thing the "principled libertarians" at Reason actually care about. They'll support a socialist, a gun grabber, a war monger, a big tech oligarch or anyone else if they think that the candidate might actually legalize pot.

      1. Trump might have legalized weed (and still may if he wins in 2020 or 2024), and more Republicans in Congress might support legalizing weed had Reason devoted more resources (e.g. just one tenth of what Reason spent trashing Trump) advocating weed legalization at the federal level.

        Just as support for gay marriage sharply increased (including among Republicans and Conservatives) in the past decade, public support for weed legalization has also sharply increased.

        And just as gay marriage became the law of the land due to court victories by Republican lawyers (not due to lobbying by left wing LGBTQ activists, nor support by Obama, Biden or Hillary), Republicans can and should support the final push to end marijuana prohibition (after 85 years).

        1. The GOP loving the war on drugs is reason's fault, because they did not run enough articles in favor of pot legalization.

          But also pot is all they care about because they aren't real libertarians.

          I think I got it all. Anything else?

          1. Anything else?

            Reason has been critical of Trump which means they're Democrats and Biden's win, except he hasn't really won, is Reason's fault.

      2. Amen! Been typing those sentiments for years here at Reason. Left-Libertarians, so-called, are nothing but Leftists, potheads, video-gamers and whiners. The last things these soy boys want is Liberty which requires everything they are not .... accountable, responsible, self-reliant and courageous.

        1. The last things these soy boys want is Liberty which requires everything they are not …. accountable, responsible, self-reliant and courageous.

          Epic response. Most of the pro-libertarian response to legalization of drugs and the sex industry is NOT for the harm done on people in prison who partook in those activities, but rather for the legalization of the activity itself, so they can partake.

      3. And, let’s face it, legal weed is the only thing the “principled libertarians” at Reason actually care about. They’ll support a socialist, a gun grabber, a war monger, a big tech oligarch or anyone else if they think that the candidate might actually legalize pot.

        LOL. Modern libertarians have a problem recognizing that just because something is legal, doesn't mean we should do it. But instead, they are overcome with people wanting to live immoral lives of decadence taking liberty in access to drugs and prostitution.

    3. When did Reason ever "smear" Trump?

      And Republicans in Congress don't support legalizing cannabis because they never actually believed in "smaller government" like they talk about. They're all about control, and anything that reduces the police state isn't going to get their support.

  3. oh overlords! please tax and regulate our plants! we did quite well without Congress' approval thankyouverymuch.

    1. LOL Dillinger, #OverGrowandShare, as Harry Anslinger told the NYT in 1931, five years before the unconstitutional (thank you Tim Leary) Tax Act: "the plant being grown so easily there is almost no interstate commerce in it.
      #DoesNotBindInConscience #OverGrowandShare.

    2. All the worst drugs come from plants. Cocaine. Heroine. Meth. ecstasy. Calling it "just a plant" is a meager attempt at labeling something dark and sinister as something innocent.

    3. The benefit of legalization would be that you don't have to worry about getting arrested for growing that plant.

  4. If there was any chance of this becoming law they never would have passed it during the Trump administration. They want the Senate to block it now so they can blame McConnell for the next 4 years knowing full well Biden would never sign this even if the Senate did pass it

    1. Save some blame for Linseed Graham Cracker of SC.

    2. If McConnell refuses to allow a vote, then he deserves the blame. If he has the power, then he has the responsibility.

      1. So Pelosi is to blame for all the people arrested and convicted during the years when she could have already done this.

        Good to know.

        1. Statement: "McConnel is trash".
          Your response: Yeah, well, so is Pelosi!"

          I'm 100% sure that you are both fat and retarded

          1. You’re missing the point. Which is Tubby Jeffy, Child Rape Enthusiast’s (DOL’s real identity) hypocrisy.

            1. Been lurking a while and you are the most pathetic of them all.

              1. Which one of our resident commie faggots are you? Or are you a new one?

  5. I think weed should be legal, but given that we're in virtual martial law in some states over a chest cold, I couldn't at this point really give a fuck less if someone gets arrested for smoking weed because they were too stupid to move to a state where it's legal.

    1. Somebody prescribe a tin of Dr Trump's Butthurt Salve to Quacky here.

  6. Oh good the House of Representatives wasting time in bills that won’t pass. Democrats wasting your time and money.

    1. You appear to be blaming the House for the Senate's refusal to do its job...?

      1. Of course. Did you fail to check which "team" controls which? It's all you need to know, really.

        1. Funny how you only have criticism for one of those teams.

  7. Democrats are sponsoring it? That's all anyone need to know, right?

  8. After the economy was crushed between the 16th and 18th Amendments, the 18th was replaced with something almost as bad. The 16th, copied from the Communist manifesto, inhibited recovery amid an 800% increase in Communist party membership. Brewers promptly formed a powerful lobby and next thing you know, a Harrison Act-type prohibition law banned the very hemp folks had discovered after other alternatives were banned. This is cartel Kleptocracy in action.

    1. nobody likes the 19th either.

      1. You can just say you're a sexist pig, you know. You don't have to be sly about it.

    2. An amendment allowing income tax is copied from the Communist manifesto?

  9. If the Republicans are smart, they'll quietly tell 4 or 5 of their caucus to vote yes to pass the bill while McConnell and others decry it. They're much more at risk of losing needed swing voters in the GA run-offs over killing it, than they are of alienating their base.

    1. Pot legalization polls favorable with the majority of republican voters now, too. The resistance to it is mostly to appease moneyed donors who would lose market share to weed.

      1. I think you're underestimating the contingent of voters who favor enforcing morality on others in terms of substance use (marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, sugar, etc...)

        My point is though, that those voters tend to be much more politically active, and they'll show up to the GA polls to vote for their team no matter what. However, there's a whole lot of casual, unaffiliated voters who are likely to show up and vote if team blue convinces them that: D Senate = Pot Legal R Senate = Pot Illegal.

        1. Perhaps you are right. Pew notes that republican elderly are the most opposed to cannabis.

      2. >>moneyed donors who would lose market share to weed

        JP Morgan

  10. A federal sales tax on anything would be unconstitutional, no?

    1. Nevermind, I was thinking of something else.

    2. We’re just about post rule of law in this country.

  11. if you gotta do the right thing, do it as wrong as possible....... we can't just straight up decriminalize a plant, we must tax it too.....

    don't get me wrong, step in the right direction and all.... but why can't we ever just fix a simple problem with a simple solution?

    1. ...we can’t just straight up decriminalize a plant...

      All the worst drugs come from plants. Cocaine. Heroine. Meth. ecstasy. Calling it "just a plant" is a meager attempt at labeling something dark and sinister as something innocent.

    2. Tax it AND regulate it...potency, purity, trace components, set asides for , etc., etc.

      And be certain that legal pot is not appreciably cheaper than illegal cartel pot. Wouldn't want to put those poor folks out of business or anything, eh? Or who would our allied governments to the South need our help to fight against?

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    1. Yeah; so?

    2. Only because:
      A) People could clearly see the government was lying about the dangers of the drug, and if this one, maybe others too?
      B) Prohibition forced people to obtain the drug from folks WHO ALSO SOLD OTHER DRUGS.

  14. The federal government never had the constitutional authority to ban it in the first place.

    1. nah bro, INTERSTATE COMMERCE!!

    2. Funny how it took a constitutional a,end,met to ban booze, but not anything else.

  15. Correct headline: "Democrats overwhelmingly vote for a new, regressive tax on all levels of income."

    All that really needs to happen on the "legalization" front is for the US federal government to follow the law and remove the devil weed from schedule 1 because it has proven medical use, and cannot legally be on schedule 1.

    But that would not create a new federal bureaucracy, and would not generate more revenue to waste.

    The whole reparations-for-past-convictions thing needs to be in distinct bills.

    1. Exactly this.

      People will "gain" a limited, taxed, ability to possess something the Federal government has no rightful purview over in exchange for more bureaucracy.

      Permission is not liberty.

      1. We can agree that it's not far enough, but people who want neither of those two are slavers.

  16. Stupid Republican jackasses in the Senate are ruining their chance to move the party towards libertarianism.

    People want marijuana legalized. Period. This is a no brainer issue.

    1. People want the Federal governmental out of drug regulation. Not rearranging the details of that regulation.

      1. Reality: Ds support legalization and repubs don't.
        Your response: "Well, people don't really want that!"

        I'm 100% certain that you are fat and retarded. Cry more cuck

  17. Jacob...plz know the MORE act was promoted by the NORML type groups BC they knew it would fail, thus keeping those orgs alive.. the STATES Act by Gardner and Warren HAS 64 votes in the Senate today. The bill is a simple 10th A bill to let the States do as they see fit. ....i remain at your service, Howard of LEAP and COPs

  18. Kids get their drugs from black market channels and those same markets feed organized crime. Eliminating those illegal channels is key to reducing underage access to drugs and de-funding organized crime.
    Both very good reasons to legalize weed, but excessive taxation on legal weed jeopardizes those ends by keeping illegal channels profitable.
    Weed is already over taxed at the state and local levels in weed legal states, and now unsurprisingly, the democrat controlled house wants to slap on more taxes which will make the situation even worse by making legal weed less competitive.
    I want this bill to pass in the Senate and get signed off by POTUS, but the taxes are going to be a problem long term

  19. Libertarian stupidity at it's finest. Fortunately, this isn't getting past the Senate. Republicans have enough good sense to know that pot is bad for you, no matter how popular it is.

    Every argument I've heard for reefer basically boils down to two talking points:

    1. Majorities support pot legalization, and

    2. It's less dangerous then alcohol.

    Point 1 is meaningless. Majorities can believe socialism is desirable and that the sky is green, that doesn't make them correct.

    Point 2 is also meaningless. Alcohol is legal because of cultural factors (which, by the way, are unfortunate), not because of a perception that it is harmless.

    I do agree there's a policy dissonance in regard to reefer and alcohol, but that is not in any way an argument for the decriminalization of the goofy green. Results matter, and the results of this policy is more stoned idiots. Why do you think the Democrats like this? They're trying to create more voters for their awful pseudo-Marxist policies.

    Pot legalization is of a piece with the drive to increase minimum wage and the woke movement. It's all part of that millennial "I want something, therefore I'm entitled to it" mentality. I guarantee you ending pot prohibition will bring this country closer to Marxism.

    If libertarians had the sense God gave a meth junkie, they would drop this inane obsession with the most overrated plant in history. Legalizing pot will not promote liberty.

    Say it with me. *Legalizing pot will not promote liberty*

    1. Federal legalization/decriminalization of cannabis isn't a means to an end. Congress should legalize because:

      1. Government has no business enforcing personal health mandates on individuals.

      2. The U.S. Federal Government REALLY has no business enforcing personal health mandates on individuals (10th amendment).

    2. The reason to legalize weed is not because it is safer than alcohol, although it is, the reason is because the government has no business choosing which or if intoxicants can be used by citizens.
      And bluntly, it's none of your business what others do for recreation unless it has a material impact on you.
      And it doesn't.
      Intoxicated driving affects everyone , but it is always illegal
      Giving drugs to children effects everyone, but it's always illegal
      And I could go on, but all of the aspects of OTHERS using intoxicants that will effect you are already illegal and will remain so

      1. Again, results matter. The only result of this kind of legislation would be more kids and drivers on reefer. I'm willing to see a few hippies and hoods locked up to see that that doesn't happen.

        Unless you want to tell me being a libertarian is all about being a pussy?

        1. You have no business deciding these things for others.

          1. I'm not deciding anything. Just stating facts. More reefer = dumber population, Democrats benefit.

            How is that good from a libertarian perspective? It's certainly not good from an objective one.

            1. It would seem, from the internal evidence of your posts, that you have gained most of your knowledge of marijuana from watching "That 70s Show".

              Which is, apparently, adequate knowledge for you to pronounce your decrees. I, OTOH, must refrain from agreement.

              1. Like just about everyone, I tried it a time or two in College. I'm not saying everyone who touches the stuff should go in jail.

                I could care less if you agree. Why do people think that having a numerical majority on your side makes you factually correct? Again, for the third time:

                Pot makes you dumber. Fact.

                Democrats want legalization. Fact.

                Dumber people means more Democratic influence. Fact.

                Balance that against...... what, people being able to hallucinate more? Is that what libertarianism is really about? At least with masturbation you aren't poisoning yourself in the process.

                1. It looks like pot certainly made YOU dumber, but that's probably only an excuse for your low IQ.

  20. The reason President Choom did precisely fuck-all about ending prohibition is because the last thing any power-grubbing douchebag wants to do is reduce governmental power.


  21. I guess they figured Georgia was important enough to finally pull this out of their back pocket. Some leftists were exasperated that Democrats didn’t latch onto this issue long ago considering its objective cross-partisan popularity. But you don’t pull your only rabbit out of the hat when nobody’s looking.

    It would almost be a pity to waste it if it turns out that Georgia can be won with Donald Trump’s “help” alone.

    By the way, pass it on, the elections are rigged and there’s nothing you can do about it. Hunker down and prepare for the communists to try and take your children. There’s simply no point in voting anymore.

    1. Your first paragraph is spot on.

  22. If the Republicans were smart they would call the Democrat bluff and counter with a clean bill to exempt marijuana from any Federal regulation.

    1. That would be nice. No regulation, no tax, and not a bluff

  23. Wow. To think the nation will move on from the war on pot dispensaries and door-busting raids conducted on pot growers by the Obama-era DEA.....

    1. About the only thing Obama did that wasn't completely horrible policy.

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