The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to decriminalize cannabis at a federal level in an historic first.
The bill passed the House in a 284-164 vote, with five Republicans breaking from their party and voting in favor, while six Democrats opposed. The bill will now move to the Senate.
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act would not only decriminalize the drug, but also mandate reassments of past federal marijuana convictions. It would also invest in legally-owned marijuana businesses.
In a debate on the bill on Friday morning, those in favor of the legislation argued that federal marijuana convictions have proven to be “unwise and unjust”, and the use of the drug should be should be a public health issue rather than a legal one.
“Whatever one’s views are on the use of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use, the policy of arrests, prosecution, and incarceration at the Federal level has proven unwise and unjust,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) argued.