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The Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives passed a bill to decriminalize and tax marijuana at the federal level, reversing what supporters call a failed policy of criminalizing marijuana use and taking steps to address racial disparities in the enforcement of federal drug laws.
Opponents, mostly Republicans, called the bill an empty political gesture and mocked Democrats for mentioning it at a time when thousands of Americans are dying from the coronavirus pandemic.

“With all the challenges America has right now, (Republicans) think COVID relief should be on the floor, but instead Democrats put cats and cannabis” on the House floor, the leader said. House minority Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California. “They are removing grass from the workers. They are collecting marijuana instead of (providing) the money we so badly need to move forward ″ to tackle the pandemic.

Cannabis is grown for export to Europe in a greenhouse in Uganda.
Cannabis is grown for export to Europe in a greenhouse in Uganda. (Getty)
McCarthy’s comment on cats referred to a separate bill passed by the House to prohibit the private ownership of big cats like lions and tigers, a measure prompted by the Netflix series. “King tiger. ″ That bill, passed by the House on Thursday, would allow most private zoos to keep their tigers and other species, but would prohibit most public contact with the animals.

Democrats said they can work on COVID-19 relief and marijuana reform at the same time, noting that the House passed a major pandemic relief bill in May that has languished in the Senate.

Supporters say the marijuana bill would help end the decades-long “war on drugs” by removing marijuana or cannabis from the federal government’s list of controlled substances and allowing states to establish their own rules about marijuana. The bill would also use money from a new special tax on marijuana to address the needs of groups and communities damaged by the so-called war on drugs and provide the elimination of federal marijuana convictions and arrests.

Heather Randazzo, a grower at Compassionate Care Foundation's medical marijuana dispensary, trims leaves from marijuana plants at the company's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
Heather Randazzo, a grower at Compassionate Care Foundation’s medical marijuana dispensary, trims leaves from marijuana plants at the company’s grow house in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. (AP)

“For too long, we have treated marijuana as a criminal justice issue rather than a matter of personal choice and public health,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, DN.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and sponsor. invoice key. “Whatever one’s opinion on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrest, prosecution and incarceration at the federal level has proven to be reckless and unfair.”

Advocates for drug reform called the House vote historic, noting that it is the first time comprehensive legislation to decriminalize marijuana has been passed by the full House or Senate.

“The criminalization of marijuana is a cornerstone of the racist war on drugs. Even after a decade of reform victories, a person was arrested almost every minute last year for simply possessing marijuana, ”said Maritza Pérez, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group. “Today, the House took the most powerful step in addressing that shameful legacy.”

Shot of dried marijuana and a rolled joint (Getty)

The vote comes at a time when most Americans live in states where marijuana is legal in some form, and lawmakers from both parties agreed that national cannabis policy has lagged far behind. changes at the state level. That division has created a number of problems: Loans and other banking services, for example, are hard to come by for many marijuana companies because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Four states, including New Jersey and Arizona, passed referenda that allowed recreational cannabis this year. Voters made Oregon the first state in the nation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine.

Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, called the House bill an important racial justice measure. The bill “is an important step, mind you, an important step toward ending the unjust war on drugs and the racial inequalities that are central to these laws,” said Lee, who is African American.

The bill, which passed 228-164, now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is unlikely to advance. A related bill that would give marijuana companies access to traditional banking services has languished in the Senate after being approved by the House last year.

A reused greenhouse for growing marijuana.
A reused greenhouse for growing marijuana. (Getty)

Five Republicans supported the bill: Rep. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida; Tom McClintock from California, Denver Riggleman from Virginia and Don Young from Alaska.

Six Democrats opposed: Representatives Cheri Bustos and Daniel Lipinski of Illinois; Collin Peterson from Minnesota; Chris Pappas from New Hampshire; Conor Lamb from Pennsylvania; and Henry Cuellar from Texas.

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the second House Republican, said Republican lawmakers have been pushing for weeks for a bill that would allow small businesses to receive another round of Loans Protection Program. Paychecks. Many small businesses are struggling or have closed as a result of the pandemic.

Rather than allow a vote on the Republican bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is “actually more focused on legalizing marijuana,” Scalise said. “It’s amazing how deaf (the Democrats) are to these small businesses and the jobs, the families that are linked to them.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also scoffed at the bill, saying in a speech on the floor that “the House of Representatives is spending this week on pressing issues like marijuana. You know, serious and important legislation commensurate with this national crisis. ”

Carole Baskin of Florida Big Cat Rescue is one of the big cat enthusiasts who became famous for
Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue in Florida is one of the big cat enthusiasts made famous by “Tiger King.” (Netflix)

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is also unlikely to advance in the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said in a tweet that Democrats were moving toward “Prosecuting King Tiger” rather than addressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Carole Baskin, whose animal rescue organization appears on the Netflix series, said the legislation would culminate a decades-long effort to end abuse of tiger cubs and other big cats, and protect the public and first responders from injury. and death.

“None of these important goals is partisan in any way, and we expect the Senate to do the same quickly to make it law,” said Baskin, CEO and founder of Florida-based Big Cat Rescue.

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