U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn cited the "devastating effects" of marijuana as the reason he sided with other House Republicans in opposing legislation Friday to decriminalize and tax marijuana.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, has sat idle for more than a year until it was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee and gained momentum though other committees starting a week ago.
"Dispensaries sit on the corners that once held churches, often down the street from schools, and our homeless population is growing by the day," said the Republican from Colorado Springs, a longtime opponent. "Even worse, our country is in the midst of a serious drug use crisis.
"We cannot pass extreme and unwise legislation that will only exacerbate this problem as well as infringe upon states' rights. The MORE Act opens the floodgates to marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sale across America."
The bill passed out of the House Friday along party lines, including Colorado's delegation, 228-164, with Democrats in favor.
“Colorado’s cannabis industry has become an important part of our state’s economy,” Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Denver, stated. “Yet, the challenges that many of our marijuana-related businesses continue to face as a result of the federal government’s stance on cannabis remains a threat to this budding industry.
"This legislation would free Colorado’s marijuana-business owners from the constant threat of federal intervention and allow them to be treated as any other business owner in this state. It would also seek to repair the harm that our nation’s marijuana laws have caused to countless families and communities across our state.”
The legislation marks the first time a congressional chamber of Congress has voted on decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level. The legislation also offers an opportunity to expunge nonviolent federal marijuana convictions. The bill that passed the House removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
The Colorado General Assembly, of course, has taken those steps on the sate level, since Coloradans legalized recreational marijuana when they passed Amendment 64 in 2012. Colorado voters decriminalized marijuana possession up to an ounce for people older than 21 in 2006. Federal pot laws, however, remained in tact as states have legalized cannabis or loosened restrictions.
The bill has little chance of becoming law as long as Republicans control the Senate, a dynamic that could change if Democrats can win both U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 6.
Lamborn argued about high pot use and whether the new law would make tax dollars available to the marijuana industry.
"We cannot continue to allow bad actors and criminal organizations to exploit our nation's addiction crisis or endanger our youth," Lamborn stated. "Even worse, the expanded use of marijuana amongst kids leads to extreme addiction rates and potentially long-term effects on the brain and mental health."