High Design

The House Votes to Federally Decriminalize Marijuana

“For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health.”

What’s Happening: The House of Representatives voted to pass the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act—a measure that would decriminalize marijuana use at the federal level for the first time in United States congressional history.

The Download: For decades, the U.S. has criminalized marijuana on the federal level—a policy that has taken a heavy toll across the country, particularly on communities of color who are disparately targeted by policing. This act aims to undo that by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, expunging prior marijuana convictions, and opening Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses.

Despite near-unanimous support from Democrats in the House of Representatives, the bill stands little chance of becoming law in the current session of Congress. Even after Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, Democrats would have to pass the measure in the House again and clear it through the Republican-controlled Senate, whose upcoming majority is still up for grabs. Regardless, the momentum is still worth celebrating—cannabis has come a long way since the ‘60s hippie fringe. One in three Americans now lives in a legalization state, and legal cannabis powers 243,000 jobs.

In Their Own Words: “For far too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem instead of as a matter of personal choice and public health,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said during debate on the bill. “Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medical use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust.

Debby Goldsberry, a dispensary owner from California, echoes Nadler: “This year is really going out with a bang. It’s something the whole industry needs. Maybe America needs this, to be honest. This should be celebrated by everybody.”

Surface Says: Though we’re still far from legalization, remember: baby steps! Consider making your voice heard by emailing your senator through Headcount’s Cannabis Voter Project and donating to local bail funds. (Buying something from Surface’s expertly curated cannabis gift guide isn’t a bad option, either.)

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