The U.S. House passes a sane marijuana decriminalization bill; the Senate should follow suit

Eighteen states all over the physical and political map, including California, Arizona, Virginia, Michigan, Montana, Illinois, Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, now permit the recreational use of cannabis, opting to regulate and collect taxes from adult use of the substance rather than continue to treat it as a problem to be contained through cops, courts, jails and prisons. Thirty-seven states have made medical marijuana legal. Yet the federal government still lists the weed as a Schedule I narcotic “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” classifying it among the most dangerous substances in America.

Anyone who isn’t under the influence can see there’s something very, very wrong with this picture.


Fortunately, the U.S. House Friday did something about the biggest current disconnect in American politics, passing a bill — authored, we’re proud to say, by New York’s own Jerry Nadler — to remove marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s naughty list; impose a 5% tax, which would rise to 8%, on cannabis products; let some pot convictions get expunged; and urge review of sentencing for weed-related crimes — while making small businesses that sell the weed eligible for federal loans and services for which any other enterprise can apply.

Washington’s backwardness isn’t just a moral and criminal justice problem. It amounts to an unfair tax on a budding industry. Because of the federal prohibition, many financial institutions won’t touch cannabis clients with a 10-foot pole. Nor can marijuana travel efficiently across state lines like almost every other product.

Nadler’s MORE Act, which also passed the House two years ago, has some Republican support, but it’s seen as a dead letter in the Senate, where, despite Chuck Schumer’s best efforts, it will struggle mightily to get near 60 votes. Schumer is working on his own legalization bill, with plans to unveil it later this month.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress, battling 20% approval ratings, should have no fear of doing what 68% of Americans, including 50% of Republicans and 71% of independents, say they want. Legalize it.

— New York Daily News

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