House votes to decriminalize marijuana at federal level

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The United States House of Representatives on Friday voted to decriminalize possession of marijuana at the federal level.

The House heard a slew of proposed amendments to the bill, including measures to track and prevent impaired driving under the influence of marijuana, as well as exclusions for law enforcement to restructure around the decriminalized substance.

The bill passed by 220 votes to 204.

Three Republicans voted yes: Matt Gaetz of Florida, Tom McClintock of California and Brian Mast of Florida. Two Democrats voted no: Chris Pappas of New Hampshire and Henry Cuellar of Texas.

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Oregon Congressman-elect Cliff Bentz, a Republican, told Fox News he believes climate change should be addressed, but not through a “top-down autocratic” system like the “Green New Deal” or cap and trade. (Cliff Bentz)

Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ore., spoke against the bill based on possible spikes in impaired driving without first providing the research on the possible ramifications of decriminalization. Bentz said relevant data should be provided before the bill passes.

“It was obvious for years that at some point marijuana was going to be officially legalized,” Bentz said on the floor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana is the most commonly used federal illegal drug in the United States.

The agency said 48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used it at least once in 2019.

Bentz continued, “What is deeply and truly troubling, however, about this bill is its failure to address the clear consequences of legalization, such as what this drug does to children, drivers on our highways, to the mental health of up to 30% of those adults who choose to use marijuana in communities awash with hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign cartels operated, unlicensed and out of control, marijuana grows.

Rep.  Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania.

Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania.
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Bentz disagreed with Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., who spoke in favor of the decriminalization bill. Lamb cited his time as assistant attorney general in Pittsburgh.

“Before I came to Congress, I was a federal prosecutor in my hometown of Pittsburgh. And the biggest law enforcement challenges we had then and still have today are opioids and violence. army,” Lamb said.

“Marijuana just hasn’t registered in terms of the risk it poses to people on a day-to-day basis in relation to those two things,” Lamb continued. “Yet because of the way the federal criminal laws are written the way cannabis is placed in schedule one, it’s very easy for a marijuana offense to get a worse sentence than an offense related to opioids like over-prescribing OxyContin or selling fentanyl or guns.”

Representative Jim Jordan expressed outrage over the timing of the marijuana bill, saying issues such as crime, inflation and illegal immigration should take priority.

“Record crime, record inflation, record gas prices, record number of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border. And what are the Democrats doing today?” Jordan asked on the floor. “Legalize the drugs, legalize the drugs, and use American taxpayer dollars to revive and sustain the marijuana industry. Wow. Such a deal for the American people.”

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Marijuana legalization has become a popular campaign for political candidates across the aisles in recent years.

In 2020, the subject regained renewed interest after the American Olympic champion Sha’Carri Richardson was told she would not be competing in the 100-meter race after testing positive for THC, a chemical found in marijuana, during the Olympic trials, nullifying her first-place results.

the House of Representatives voted 228-164 to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act in 2020, the first time either house of Congress has voted to decriminalize marijuana.

However, the legislation stalled in the Senate and eventually died without going any further.

Fox News’ Julia Musto and Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.

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