- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill that would effectively decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and expunge related criminal convictions.

Committee members voted 24-10 to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, with two Republicans breaking ranks to vote in favor of the Democrat-led bill.

Also known as the MORE Act, the bill to end federal marijuana prohibition is the first of its kind to have successfully cleared a U.S. congressional committee.

The bill was introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. It is identical to a companion bill awaiting consideration in the Senate.

Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 narcotic under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, placing the plant in the same category as hard drugs including heroin and ecstasy. Most states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, however, and the results of several nationwide polls have concluded that roughly two-thirds of Americans support federally legalizing pot.

If cleared by Congress and signed into law, the MORE Act would eliminate marijuana’s status as a controlled substance and allow for individuals previously found guilty of federal marijuana crimes to have those convictions expunged, among other provisions.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat and founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, called the Judiciary Committee‘s vote a “critical milepost on our journey to end the failed prohibition of cannabis that has ruined countless lives and disproportionately impacted communities of color.

“This vote was a vote for progressive reform, for racial justice, for personal freedom, for economic opportunity and for better health,” Mr. Blumenauer said in a statement.

Mr. Nadler’s bill currently boasts 57 co-sponsors in the Democratic-controlled House, where the bill is less likely to face opposition than in the Republican-led Senate.

The version introduced by Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate, currently has five co-sponsors, including two fellow Democratic White House hopefuls, Sens. Cory A. Booker of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Tom McClintock of California were the only Republican members of the Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of Mr. Nadler’s bill.

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