The U.S. House of Representatives voted on April 1 to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, reports The New York Times.
While the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act is unlikely to get the required majority in the Senate, supporters said the vote was a necessary step toward building consensus on something that can become law.
The bill would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, impose an 8 percent tax on cannabis products, allow some convictions on cannabis charges to be expunged and press for sentencing reviews at the federal and state levels. It would also make Small Business Administration loans and services available to cannabis businesses while setting standards for them.
By lowering law enforcement and incarceration costs and imposing new taxation, the bill would save the government hundreds of millions of dollars. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act would reduce the federal deficit by nearly $3 billion over the next decade.
Thirty-seven states have legalized cannabis for medical use, and 15 have granted adults legal access for purely recreational purposes. Because cannabis remains a federally controlled substance, however, banks insured by the federal government have been loath to make their services available to the burgeoning marijuana industry.
Faced with declining demand for cigarettes, some tobacco companies have been eying marijuana as a new business area.
Sales in that industry totaled $20 billion in 2020 and are projected to more than double by 2025.