Schools may be closed this fall due to COVID-19, but it looks like members of the United States House of Representatives have learned something when it comes to cannabis. According to a recent report out in The Hill on Monday, Congress's lower body will vote to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act come September. The new legislation would also expunge some criminal records of those arrested for marijuana infractions.
As The Hill reports, the new bill being voted on by the House would not legalize cannabis. Still, rather it would take a federalist approach, leaving legalization up to individual states. Still, it would be what The Hill calls a “historic step” forward, removing penalties for the possession of the drug at the federal level. Currently, even in states like California, where cannabis is legal, the feds can come in at any time and shut down operations.
In an email sent out to members of his caucus, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said that the vote would take place on a still-to-be-determined date in September.
As of now, cannabis is a Schedule I drug as per the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no medical value whatsoever. For years, activists have argued that classifying the drug under the strictest of schedules is a form of government overreach.
Over the past decade, however, at least 11 states have legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, with several more doing so for medical reasons. The dominoes continue to fall across the country, with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf being the most recent state leader to push for recreational cannabis. Last week he proposed that the state legislature legalize the drug to help shore up budget deficits caused by COVID-19 and the economic downturn of recent months.
In 2018, Congress passed legislation to legalize hemp, which, in turn, legalized cannabidiol or CBD products. It hasn’t been smooth sailing since the passage of what’s known as the Farm Bill, however, as CBD manufacturers have waited patiently for guidance from the Food and Drug Administration on how to proceed with CBD-infused food products, among other issues that have arisen.
Just last week, the Drug Enforcement Agency was accused of overstepping its bounds, releasing its own set of guidance on the CBD question that puts the industry in a precarious place. According to reports, the DEA has made it illegal to have THC in concentrations above 0.3 percent, while also banning new derivative products such as Delta-8. Some companies have already taken the agency to court, arguing that the DEA has gone too far.
The current bill, up for a vote in September, would also allow for the expungement of criminal records, an idea that has been called for by many legalization activists over the years.
Although the bill has bipartisan support, having been first introduced by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler with the support of GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Tom McClintock, experts predict there is little if any likelihood that it will pass the Republican-controlled Senate.