Only five Republicans voted for the historic bill to decriminalize cannabis.
The House on Friday passed a historic bill that decriminalizes marijuana use, as well as lets the federal government tax the booming cannabis industry in the numerous states that have legalized the drug for both recreational and medical use.
However, nearly every single Republican voted against the bill, which is broadly popular in the United States, with more than two-thirds of Americans supporting legalizing the drug, according to a Gallup survey from November 2020. The bill passed the House by a vote of 228 to 164 — with just five Republicans voted for the legislation.
The arguments Republicans gave for voting against a broadly popular bill ran the gamut.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) made the excuse that cannabis is a "gateway drug" — which is a debunked myth.
"Every one of them — they said they started by using marijuana," Lesko said about her concern for legalizing weed, according to the Washington Post. "I am not saying that every person that smokes marijuana is going to be addicted to harder drugs, but I am concerned that we have so much costs associated with addiction in our country."
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the New Jersey Republican who switched parties over his support for Trump, also said he voted against the bill over his "concern for kids," the Washington Post reported.
Other Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said now is not the time to be voting on marijuana legislation.
"Small businesses are closing. Americans are getting laid off. And Democrats are voting on *𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘬𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘦𝘴* marijuana. They are picking weed over workers," McCarthy tweeted on Thursday, the day before the vote.
Of course, Democrats in the House has passed multiple coronavirus relief packages that Senate Republicans have blocked.
And raising tax revenue could help pay for economic relief Americans desperately need on an industry that is already booming across the country.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) one of the few Republicans to vote for the bill, criticized his colleagues for their outdated views on marijuana.
"The federal government has lied to the people of this country about marijuana for a generation," Gaetz said in a speech on the House floor. "We have seen a generation, particularly Black and Brown youth, locked up for offenses that should have not resulted in any incarceration whatsoever."
Gaetz was one of just five GOP lawmakers to vote in favor of the bill, which will "expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses," among other things, according to a summary of the legislation.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris support decriminalizing the drug.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.