A divided U.S. House committee approved a proposal Wednesday to decriminalize and tax marijuana at the federal level, a vote alternately described as a momentous turning point in national cannabis policy or a hollow political gesture.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the proposal 24-10 after more than two hours of debate.

It would reverse a longstanding federal prohibition by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allow states to set their own rules on pot.

The vote “marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered,” stated Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine called the vote “a historic step forward for cannabis policy reform.”

The vote comes at a time when most Americans live in states where marijuana is legal in some form, and committee members from both parties agreed that national cannabis policy lagged woefully behind.

That divide has created a host of problems — loans and other banking services, for example, are hard to get for many marijuana companies because pot remains illegal at the federal level.

However, the bill’s future is uncertain.

It wasn’t immediately clear when, or if, a vote would take place in the full House.

The proposal has better chances of passing in the Democratic-controlled chamber than in the Republican-held Senate.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee complained that the proposal to decriminalize cannabis had never had a hearing and lacked the bipartisan support needed to become law.

Among its provisions, the legislation would authorize a 5% sales tax on marijuana products to fund programs aimed at assisting people and communities harmed in the so-called war on drugs, such as job training and legal aid.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler , D-N.Y., said the nation has for too long “treated marijuana as a criminal justice problem, instead of a matter of personal choice and public health.”

“Arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating users at the federal level is unwise and unjust,” he said.

“The racial disparity in enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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