Marijuana took center stage on Capitol Hill last week, at least for a moment.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill on Wednesday, November 20 that could lead to marijuana becoming legal on the federal level. The bill now heads to the full House for a vote.
Although several states currently allow recreational use of marijuana—also known as cannabis—and the majority of states have approved its use for medical purposes, marijuana is classified federally as a Schedule I controlled substance, lumped together with outlawed drugs such as LSD, heroin, and peyote.
What does the bill say?
Although the bill could make cannabis legal nationally, it reportedly leaves specific policy around legalization to the individual states, including how they want to enact the law, and how to clear the records of people convicted of low-level offenses related to pot possession. The bill would also impose a 5% sales tax on marijuana that would be used to support communities most affected by current laws outlawing marijuana.
The bill moves next to the Democrat-controlled House, where passage is likely, according to some experts. (In September, the House passed another bill that would allow cannabis producing-companies to access banks, which they currently can’t do.)
The fate of the legislation seems less certain once it moves to the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans who for the most part don’t favor legalizing marijuana. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, is generally opposed to federal legislation legalizing cannabis.
More about Marijuana
Marijuana is legal for recreational use in 11 states, and 33 states have laws that make it legal for medical purposes.
Two-thirds of U.S. citizens support the legalization of marijuana, according to recent research by the Pew Research Center.
Growth is expected for a long list of businesses, such as the cultivators and packagers of the plants, dispensaries for medical and recreational weed, not to mention companies creating products that use cannabis byproducts called CBDs. CBDs are non-pyscho-active derivatives of cannabis, which can be used for a variety of purposes, including helping with inflammation, chronic pain, and depression.
Companies are also capitalizing on industrial uses for cannabis, including the production of hemp, which can be used to make fabrics and textiles, as well as being used as additives to health food and body care products.
And it all makes for big business. Total legal sales of cannabis were about $10 billion in 2017, and are expected to grow to $24.5 billion by 2021, according to reports.