The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Friday that would decriminalize marijuana, at least from federal law.
Alaska’s Congressman Don Young voted in favor of H.R. 3884, also called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2018, or the MORE Act.
The MORE Act is also pending before the Senate, where it is not expected to pass. Among notable items in the bill, it would remove marijuana from the schedules of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act, legalizing several marijuana-related activities at the federal level.
The bill passed by a vote of 228 to 164. At least five Republicans voted for the bill and six Democrats voted against it.
For several years, Congressman Young has taken a more libertarian view of marijuana, and he serves as co-chair of the House Cannabis Caucus. He sees it as a states’ rights issue, especially because there are several states with varying degrees of legalization of the weed. Alaska has legalized commercial marijuana agriculture and trade, and it is today one of the few growing industries in Alaska.
Last year Young pushed for the passage H.R. 1595 – the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, to protect financial institutions serving cannabis businesses operating legally under state law from punitive federal actions. The SAFE Banking Act passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 321-103. It has been stalled in the Senate Banking Committee by Chairman Mike Crapo of Idaho, who has outlines numerous changes he wants made in the bill.
“I am a passionate supporter of a states’ rights approach to cannabis policy. For too long, the federal government has stood in the way of states that have acted to set their own cannabis policies,” said Congressman Young last year. “I have met with many constituents, including owners of small businesses in Alaska’s legal cannabis industry as well as state leaders of financial institutions.”
Lacy Wilcox, president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, said the group is grateful for Congressman Young “for always having our back here.” The MORE Act could languish in the Senate, “but that doesn’t mean we give up,” she said, adding caution that there is a particular amendment that she is concerned about, relating to people who may have a prior marijuana conviction being prohibited from participating in the industry.