Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R-SC) has introduced a bill to end federal cannabis prohibition in a measure that would bring federal regulation.
Her bill, the States Reform Act, repeals the federal prohibition of cannabis, expunges federal non-violent cannabis crimes, and places certain restrictions on the advertising of cannabis products.
As a Schedule I narcotic, cannabis is thought by the United States government to be as bad as heroin and crack but not as bad as Schedule II cocaine powder.
“If your state has legalized it, this bill allows you to operate in those parameters. This provides a framework for every state and what they’re going to and have been doing for 25 plus years in this space,” Mace said.
The States Rights Act would have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) regulate adult-use cannabis and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate medical cannabis. They would impose their own programs to monitor cannabis sales which could include the ability to regulate who enters the market by imposing entry fees as high as $10,000. However, that could be waived for economically or socially disadvantaged businesses as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The bill would protect military veterans who have issues with the Veterans Administration, which does not recognize state-legal cannabis markets.
Along with social justice provisions such as expungements, it imposes a three percent tax which is supposed to go to community reinvestment, law enforcement, and the SBA.
The federal tax would be charged in addition to state and local taxes on cannabis.
“Representative Mace, along with multiple other Republicans, has put forward comprehensive and sensible legislation to repeal marijuana criminalization, and this effort deserves serious consideration,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.
Mace is serving her first term in Congress. This does not bode well for the bill’s passage as Congress is a body that values seniority.
Ending Federal Cannabis Prohibition with Republican Support
While Republicans have backed pro-cannabis bills in the past, the States Reform Act is the first Republican-led effort. It shows the nature of bipartisan support for cannabis reform. For example, the States Reform Act is backed by several libertarian and conservative-leaning think tanks and organizations.
In addition, the bill is supported by some of the largest cannabis companies.
“It’s a very good law,” said Boris Jordan, Chairman of Curaleaf, a cannabis corporation that is a Multi-State Operator (MSOs) that has three locations open in South Jersey.
“Criminal justice reform cannot happen in our country until we end federal cannabis prohibition and address the harms caused by the war on drugs. The States Reform Act is a pragmatic and far-reaching effort to end harmful cannabis policies that have devastated the lives of countless Americans and create a clear path forward,” said Steven Hawkins, CEO of the U.S. Cannabis Council, a coalition of cannabis corporations and interest groups.
“We believe expungements should take precedence over other milestones, and a portion of tax revenues should go to rebuild communities directly impacted by the War on Drugs,” he added.
“Additionally, we would like to look more closely at the medical cannabis provisions to help ensure they do not result in negative unintended consequences,” Hawkins said.
“As a cannabis industry CEO whose family roots in agriculture go back generations in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, I am thrilled to see a Southern representative advance this issue,” said Jessica Billingsley, Chair of U.S. Cannabis Council and CEO of the cannabis corporation Akerna.
“Farmers across the region struggle to make ends meet with standard commodity crops. Giving farmers the option to grow cannabis can open the door to a new, more prosperous era of agriculture across the South,” she added.
The release of the bills comes as comedians Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman have increased their cannabis advocacy as the public faces of the new “Cannabis in Common” campaign. Many cannabis corporations like Columbia Care, Curaleaf, the Colorado-based Terrapin Care Station which seeks a license in Hoboken, the Marijuana Policy Project, the long-running Seattle Hempfest, the Oaksterdam University, Last Prisoner Project, Weedmaps, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), among others support the campaign.
Pending Cannabis Reform Efforts
The latest effort to end federal cannabis prohibition comes as a number of bills introduced by Democrats have not made progress.
With efforts stalled, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to remove cannabis from the list of Controlled Substances.
Some Democrats are still pushing the MORE Act which focuses on decriminalization. Others are focused on the SAFE Banking Act which would help businesses in the industry access banking and other financial services.
Social justice advocates do not want a bill that helps the industry to pass while the issues with cannabis prohibition are not addressed. Booker agrees with them.
While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) along with Booker and Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) have made a lot of noise about pushing a bill to end cannabis prohibition, they have made little progress.
Slow progress is the norm though for Congress.
With the COVID pandemic and its economic fallout, cannabis has not been given top priority.