WASHINGTON – Democrat-controlled House on Friday approved a bill to decriminalize and tax marijuana at the federal level, reversing a failed fan policy to criminalize pottery and taking steps to address racial differences in the implementation of federal drug laws.
Opponents, mostly Republicans, called the bill an excuse for a political gesture and mocked Democrats for bringing it up at a time when thousands of Americans are dying of the coronavirus epidemic.
“Despite American challenges (Republicans) believe that COVID relief should be on the floor, instead Democrats put cats and cannabis on the house floor,” said Kevin McCarthy, the house’s minority leader in California. – They pick weeds on the workers. They take (provide) marijuana for the money we need to move forward to deal with the pandemic.
McCarthy’s comment on cats referred to a separate bill approved by the House that forbade the acquisition of private property by large cats such as lions and tigers. This measure was supported by Netflix’s “Tiger King” series. This law, approved by the House on Thursday, would allow most private zoos to keep tigers and other species, but would ban most public contact with animals.
Democrats said they could work on the exemption of COVID-19 and marijuana reform at the same time, noting that the House passed a pandemic mitigation bill in May that ran in the Senate.
Proponents say the banking bill would help reverse the harmful effects of the decades-long “drug war” by removing marijuana or cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances, while allowing states to set their own rules for the pot. The bill would also use the money from the excise tax on marijuana to meet the needs of groups and communities affected by the drug war and to abolish federal marijuana convictions and arrests.
“For too long, we are treating marijuana as a criminal justice problem, not because of personal choice and public health,” said MP Jerry Nadler, DN.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the bill. “Whatever your views on the use of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes, the policy of arrest, prosecution, and detention at the federal level has proved unwise and unfair.”
The vote comes when the majority of Americans live in states where marijuana is in some form legal, and lawmakers on both sides have agreed that national cannabis policies have woefully lagged behind state-level changes. This division has raised a number of problems – for example, loans and other banking services are difficult for many marijuana companies to obtain as the pot remains illegal at the federal level.
Four states, including New Jersey and Arizona, allowed a referendum to authorize recreational cannabis. Voters made Oregon the first state in the nation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.
Representative Barbara Lee of the state of California called the house bill an important racial justice measure. Lee, who is black, said the bill is the result of years of work by many advocates and is long overdue.
The bill is “an important step, remember, it’s a big step toward ending the unjust war on drugs and racial inequalities that are central to these laws,” Lee said.
The bill would open up additional opportunities for marijuana businesses, including access to credit for small business administration, to help ensure that minorities can participate in an industry dominated by white families and producers. “It’s a job-creating industry and (the bill) also provides economic opportunities for owners of minority-owned businesses,” Lee said.
The bill passed in 228-164 now goes to a Republican-controlled senate, where it is unlikely to get any further. A related bill that would give banking businesses access to traditional banking services sank in the Senate after it was approved by the House last year.
Louisiana State Representative Steve Scalise, the number two Republican House, said the GOP legislators have been pushing for weeks to pass a bill that will allow small businesses to get another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans. Many small businesses are struggling or closed due to the epidemic.
If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were to take the GOP bill upstairs, she would “get more than 400 votes,” Scalise told Fox News. – And yet, this week is actually focusing more on legalizing the bank than on helping those small businesses with PPP loans. It is unbelievable how deaf (Democrats) these small businesses are and the jobs and families associated with them. “
Among its provisions, the legislation would allow a 5% sales tax on marijuana products to fund programs aimed at people and communities affected by the so-called drug war, such as job training and legal assistance. This would also require federal courts to overturn marijuana convictions.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act is also unlikely to move forward in the Senate.
Senator Ted Cruz, of R-Texas, criticized Democrats, saying in a tweet that they would rather “prosecute the Tiger King” rather than address issues related to the COVID-19 epidemic.
But Carole Baskin, whose animal rescue organization is on the Netflix series, said the legislation would make decades of efforts to end the abuse of tiger cubs and other big cats and protect the public and first responders from injury and death.
“None of these important goals can be backed up in any way, and we hope the Senate will quickly follow suit to make it legitimate,” said Baskin, CEO and founder of Florida-based Big Cat Rescue.