House Democrats passed a bill legalizing marijuana federally and voted down a Republican amendment that would have protected businesses seeking to test employees or applicants for the drug.
The MORE Act passed the House on Friday, removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act's list of scheduled substances. The legislation would eliminate any federal criminal penalties for possessing, manufacturing, or distributing the drug.
The failed amendment, proposed by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R., Ariz.), would have established that "an employer may test an employee or applicant for cannabis use to ensure workplace and public safety." The amendment would have effectively allowed employers to retain the right to test employees or applicants for marijuana use while on the job.
Lesko urged the amendment's adoption during a motion to recommit, the final chance legislators have to amend a bill.
"As my Democratic colleagues often say, we need to follow the science," Lesko said.
"If we adopt this motion, we will address legal ambiguities that may arise from removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and affirm private employers' right to drug test employees in order to keep their workplaces and the public safe," she continued. "This is not a ‘gotcha' moment. It's not playing politics. My motion to recommit is a genuine attempt to improve the bill."
The motion to recommit on the amendment received 174 votes—163 votes from Republicans and 11 from Democrats. But 218 lawmakers voted against it, all but one of whom are Democrats. The lone Republican voting against the amendment was Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), who is also the bill's only Republican cosponsor.
The bill is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.