US lawmakers to vote on marijuana legalization

The US House of Representatives will hold a vote next week on a bill to legalize marijuana and expunge some federal criminal records, in what could be a first step towards reform at the federal level.

Steny Hoyer, a top Democrat who sets the voting agenda in the lower chamber, announced the plan Friday, following through on a pre-election promise. CSPAN reported that the vote will likely be held towards the end of the week.

The move would likely stall in the Republican-controlled Senate, though if the bill passes in the House it could act to push President-elect Joe Biden to take executive action on cannabis after he takes office in January.

Biden was once a tough-on-crime senator, but in his campaign for president staked out some more moderate positions, including on decriminalizing marijuana.

Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, is a key supporter in the Senate of legislation to legalize marijuana.

The bill is increasingly seen as a criminal justice reform initiative, with arguments saying minorities are hit harder by the laws banning the substance.

The drug is now legal in a number of states, whether for medical or recreational use, and the last election saw a number of pro-cannabis ballot measures pass in both Republican and Democratic states. More states are planning action in 2021.

READ ALSO: We don’t need permission to smoke weed — Naira Marley

California, the country’s most populous state, voted to fully legalize cannabis in 2016, spurring a massive economy around the substance.

The House bill may gain support from some libertarian-leaning Republicans.

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