House votes to decriminalize cannabis

House votes to decriminalize cannabis

Isabel Webb Carey
Isabel Webb Carey
|
April 4, 2022

The House passed a landmark legislation on Friday to decriminalize marijuana at a federal level. In the 220-204 vote, Texas’ Henry Cuellar was one of two Democrats to vote against the bill.

Cuellar has long occupied a conservative position on many social issues. The Democrat from Laredo opposes abortion and was the lone Democrat to vote against federal abortion rights legislation last fall. He is currently competing in a fraught runoff for his 10th term against progressive attorney Jessica Cisneros.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act frames legalized cannabis as an issue of economic growth, racial justice and states’ rights. It 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.

The three Republicans who joined their Democratic colleagues in voting for the measure were Representatives Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida and Tom McClintock of California. Other Republicans have signed on to a similar bill by Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina. Cuellar and Rep. Chris Pappas of New Hampshire were the only Democrats to vote against the legislation on Friday.

However, the bill is unlikely to secure the necessary 60 votes to pass in the upper chamber, despite the backing of the majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. In 2020, a similar measure the House passed failed in the Senate. 

47 states and the District of Columbia have taken steps to relax their marijuana laws. Thirty-seven states have legalized cannabis for medical use, and 15 have granted adults legal access for purely recreational purposes. Despite these developments, cannabis remains a federally controlled substance on par with heroin.

Subscribe to the newsletter everyone in Texas is reading.

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey attends the University of Texas at Austin in the Plan II Honors Program with a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. Her interests include education, local governance, sustainability, and equity. Isabel enjoys dancing, hiking, and live music. She is also a staff writer for the Texas Orator. Email her at isabelwebbcarey@gmail.com
Our Privacy Policy has been updated to support the latest regulations.Click to learn more.×