Sun | Dec 15, 2019

Divided US House committee backs marijuana decriminalisation

Published:Thursday | November 21, 2019 | 12:44 PM
This November 13, 2019 file photo shows patrons smoking marijuana at Lowell's Original Cannabis Cafe, a legal marijuana establishment, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A divided United States House committee approved a proposal Wednesday to decriminalise and tax marijuana at the federal level, a vote that was alternately described as a momentous turning point in national cannabis policy or a hollow political gesture.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the proposal 24-10 after more than two hours of debate.

It would reverse a longstanding federal prohibition by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, while allowing states to set their own rules on pot.

The vote “marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered,” Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said in a statement.

Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine called the vote “a historic step forward for cannabis policy reform.”

The vote comes at a time when most Americans live in states where marijuana is legal in some form, and committee members from both parties agreed that national cannabis policy lagged woefully behind changes at the state level.

That divide has created a host of problems — loans and other banking services, for example, are hard to get for many marijuana companies because pot remains illegal at the federal level.

However, the bill’s future is uncertain.

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