Di­vided US House com­mit­tee backs pot de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD -

LOS AN­GE­LES — A di­vided U.S. House com­mit­tee ap­proved a pro­posal Wed­nes­day to de­crim­i­nal­ize and tax mar­i­juana at the fed­eral level, a vote that was al­ter­nately de­scribed as a mo­men­tous turn­ing point in na­tional cannabis pol­icy or a hol­low po­lit­i­cal ges­ture.

The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee ap­proved the pro­posal 24-10 af­ter more than two hours of de­bate. It would re­verse a long­stand­ing fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tion by re­mov­ing mar­i­juana from the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act, while al­low­ing states to set their own rules on pot.

The vote “marks a turn­ing point for fed­eral cannabis pol­icy and is truly a sign that pro­hi­bi­tion’s days are num­bered,” Aaron Smith, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cannabis In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, said in a state­ment.

How­ever, the bill’s fu­ture is un­cer­tain. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear if the pro­posal would be re­viewed by other com­mit­tees and when, or if, a vote would take place in the full House. The pro­posal has bet­ter chances of pass­ing in the Demo­cratic-con­trolled cham­ber than in the Repub­li­can-held

Se­nate.

The House passed a bill ear­lier this year to grant le­gal mar­i­juana busi­nesses ac­cess to bank­ing, but it hasn’t ad­vanced in the Se­nate.

Repub­li­cans on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee com­plained that the pro­posal had never had a hear­ing and lacked bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler said the na­tion has for too long “treated mar­i­juana as a crim­i­nal jus­tice prob­lem, in­stead of a mat­ter of per­sonal choice and pub­lic health.”

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