House Passes Bill to Federally Decriminalize Marijuana: Here’s What That Means, What Happens Next

by Megan Molseed

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to pass a bill ending the federal criminalization of marijuana. However, this measure is unlikely to pass the Senate, experts note. The bill passed by just a few votes, with most republicans remaining unsupportive of the measure. The bill, supporters say, prevents federal agencies from denying security clearances to federal workers because of marijuana use. And it would allow cannabis to be recommended for veterans suffering from PTSD. Furthermore, supporters argue that decriminalizing marijuana will lead to gains in revenue collected from sales taxes applied to marijuana sales.

What We Know

  • The U.S. House of Representatives has voted, by a slim margin, to decriminalize marijuana.
  • A similar bill was passed two years ago. However, it never got off the ground after stalling in the Senate.
  • Proponents of the bill note that legalizing cannabis at the federal level will bring health and financial benefits at both the state and federal levels.
  • Supporters of the bill also note that there would be beneficial financial gains from these changes.
  • Those opposing the bill note this could induce marijuana sales in neighborhoods or other areas that may not benefit from this type of business.

The House Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana By A Slim Margin

On Friday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives seemed almost split as a bill to decriminalize cannabis came up for discussion. The bill passed by a slim margin, receiving 220 votes for the bill and 204 votes against the proposal.

California Republican Tom McClintock, and Florida Republican Representatives Brian Mast and Matt Gaetz all voted in favor of the measure, per Axios. Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar and New Hampshire’s Democratic Representative Chris Pappas recorded votes against the bill.

The Proposed Bill Would Allow For Prescriptions For PTSD Patients

Sponsoring this marijuana bill as it goes through the House is New York Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler. Among the arguments Nadler brings to the table in sponsoring this measure is that legalizing cannabis at a federal level will bring beneficial health benefits. Among these benefits is allowing medical teams to recommend marijuana to veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nadler also notes that legalizing marijuana at the federal level will allow for sales tax on the substance; therefore providing a new source of revenue for states.

Additionally, the bill aims to expunge the record of those who have non-violent cannabis-related convictions. These, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says, “can haunt people of color and impact the trajectory of their lives and career indefinitely.”

“It can result in difficulty finding employment, difficulty finding housing, denial of access of federal benefits, denial of financial aid at colleges and universities,” Hoyer says, per CNN.

“And denial of the right to vote,” he adds. “That’s why we’re dealing with this.”

Consequently, opponents note that the passing of the bill would create concerns. Concerns that could lead to dangerous consequences notes Republican Representative Michelle Fischbach. According to Fischbach, this legislation is “not only flawed but dangerous.” Fischbach argues that the bill doesn’t protect minors, and it could encourage an influx of marijuana businesses.

A recent Pew Research Center poll has found that the legalization of cannabis is popular among the American population. 91% of those polled agree that either medical or recreational use should be legalized.