The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to decriminalise cannabis at the national level for the first time.
It calls for removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances and erasing certain federal convictions.
It also supports reinvestment in communities adversely impacted by the decades-long “war on drugs”.
The bill is very unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (More) Act was passed in the lower chamber 228 to 164 on Friday afternoon, with five Republicans – and one independent – supporting the measure.
To become law, the bill needs to pass the Senate and be signed by the president. If that happens, it could help bridge a major disconnect between national and state drug policy in the US.
Cannabis is still prohibited by the 1970 federal drug policy known as the Controlled Substances Act and classed as a Schedule I narcotic – defined as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse – but states have made their own laws relating to the drug.
One in three Americans currently live in states where cannabis is legal for adult use, despite the federal prohibition.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have passed ballot measures or initiatives that allow the recreational use of cannabis by anyone over the age of 21.
In addition, 38 states have passed measures that allow its use for medicinal purposes.
Last month, voters in three states – Arizona, Montana and New Jersey – overwhelmingly approved ballot measures to legalise recreational use, with voters in Mississippi supporting its medicinal use. South Dakota, a traditionally conservative state, made history when voters there simultaneously backed initiatives for the medicinal and recreational use of the drug.
Support for federal cannabis legalisation is now at an all-time high, with a Gallup poll last month showing more than two-thirds of American adults support it.
Several lawmakers took to the House floor ahead of the vote, arguing the bill had less to do with legalising marijuana and more to do with how the enforcement of cannabis prohibition has hurt communities of colour, leaving behind “a legacy of racial and ethnic injustices”.
Black Americans are more than three times as likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offences as white Americans, despite similar rates of usage, according to a study last year from the American Civil Liberties Union.
(Read more at:- https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55191808)