Not a Single PA Republican in the US House Wants to Decriminalize Marijuana

FILE - In this April 2, 2016 file photo, a demonstrator waves a flag with marijuana leaves on it during a protest calling for the legalization of marijuana, outside of the White House in Washington. Marijuana would be decriminalized at the federal level under legislation the House approved Friday as Democrats made the case for allowing states to set their own policies on pot. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

By Patrick Berkery

April 6, 2022

Just like their colleagues in the state House, Pennsylvania Republicans in the US House continue to vote against the legalization of recreational marijuana.

The US House approved legislation last week that would decriminalize marijuana nationally, but not a single Republican US representative from Pennsylvania voted in favor of HR 3617, known as the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act

All nine of Pennsylvania’s Democrats in the US House voted for the legislation, which passed 220-204. All but two voting Democrats in the US House backed the measure, while only three Republicans did.

What’s Next for the MORE Act?

The chances of the bill becoming law are slim since it is unlikely to garner the 60 votes needed to pass the US Senate. Legislation removing marijuana from the list of federally-controlled substances met a similar fate in 2020 when it passed the House but died in the Senate.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have already legalized recreational marijuana, and many voters across the country have supported measures to decriminalize marijuana.

“If states are the laboratories of democracy, it is long past time for the federal government to recognize that legalization has been a resounding success and that the conflict with federal law has become untenable,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee.

Despite state sanctioned sales of recreational marijuna, most dispensaries nationwide remain largely reliant on cash and unable to use traditional banking networks. That is because federal law still designates marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, defined by the Drug Enforcement Agency as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” and the businesses that sell them as illegal.

Due to continued opposition from the GOP-controlled state Legislature, the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania, though possession of small amounts has been decriminalized in some cities and smaller towns throughout the state, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Lancaster, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, State College, and Upper Darby. Each of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have decriminalized marijuna with the exception of West Virginia. Medical marijuana use in Pennsylvania was legalized in 2016. 

What is the MORE Act?

The bill would remove marijuana from the federal government’s list of controlled substances, allow some convictions on cannabis charges to be expunged, and press for sentencing reviews at the federal and state levels. It also calls for a 5% tax on marijuana and marijuana products that would gradually increase to 8% over five years. That money would be used for grant programs focused on job training, legal aid, substance abuse treatment, and loans to help disadvantaged small businesses get into the marijuana industry.

Democrats said the MORE act is a necessary step in correcting the disproportionate negative impact the federal prohibition on marijuana has had on minority communities. According to an ACLU study, Black Americans were nearly four times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though they use it at similar rates. Black Pennsylvanians were three times more likely to be arrested.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that thousands of inmates would be released earlier than under current law, saving about $800 million over a 10-year period. Overall, the federal deficit would be reduced by nearly $3 billion over the next decade.

The Full Pennsylvania Roll Call

  • Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia) Yea
  • Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna) Yea
  • Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) Yea
  • Mike Doyle (D-Allegheny) Yea
  • Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) Yea
  • Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) Nay
  • Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester) Yea
  • John Joyce (R-Blair) Nay
  • Fred Keller (R-Snyder) Nay
  • Mike Kelly (R-Butler) Nay
  • Conor Lamb (D-Allegheny) Yea
  • Dan Meuser (R-Luzerne) Nay
  • Scott Perry (R-York) Nay
  • Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny) Nay
  • Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware) Yea
  • Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) Nay
  • Glenn Thompson (R-Centre) Nay
  • Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) Yea

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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