Mostly lead by Democrats until now, cannabis legalization now has consensus on both sides of the political aisle in the United States.
Several Republican members of Congress on Monday introduced a bill to legalize cannabis at the federal level, in response to the ambitious reform proposals underway led by Democrats and the GOP’s scaled-back cannabis decriminalization legislation.
Republican Representative Nancy Mace is carrying the States Reform Act with a handful of Republican co-sponsors. The legislation seeks to end federal prohibition of cannabis a while taking specific steps to ensure that businesses in existing state markets can continue to operate unimpeded by changing federal rules.
Unlike more modest measures previously championed by some Republicans, this legislation represents an attempt to bridge a partisan divide. It does so by incorporating some fairness provisions such as expunging the criminal records of people with non-violent cannabis-related convictions and imposing an excise tax, the revenue from which would support community reinvestment, law enforcement, and Small Business Administration (SBA) activities.
“This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, people with serious illnesses, and is good for criminal justice reform,” Mace said in a statement Monday. “The state reform bill takes special care to keep Americans and their children safe while ending federal interference with state cannabis laws.”
“Washington needs to provide a framework that allows states to make their own decisions about cannabis moving forward,” the congresswoman said. “This bill does that.”
Outline of the bill
Under the legalization bill carried by Nancy Mace, the federal government treats cannabis the same as alcohol. This would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, with retroactive effects for those previously convicted.
Previous federal cannabis-related convictions would have to be expunged within one year. Individuals affiliated with cartels or who have been convicted of DUI, however, would not be eligible for this relief. Mace’s office estimates that approximately 2,600 people will be released from federal incarceration under this provision.
The bill calls for a 3 percent federal excise tax on cannabis, significantly lower than the taxes proposed in the Democrat-led cannabis bills.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade (TTB) – renamed the Office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis Tax and Trade – would be the primary regulator of the cannabis market for interstate and international commerce. The agency would create a cannabis tracking and tracing system, and federal officials would be authorized to issue product packaging and labeling requirements.
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory authority would be limited, with the goal that it would have no more control over cannabis than it does over alcohol, except for medical cannabis. The agency would be able to implement dosage limits (e.g., 10mg THC per serving, and no more than 10 servings per package), certify state-designated medical cannabis products, and approve and regulate cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals, but would not be able to prohibit the use of cannabis or its derivatives in non-medicinal applications, such as state-designated medical cannabis products, dietary supplements, foods, beverages, non-medicinal topicals or cosmetics.
Enforcement authority would be transferred from the Drug Enforcement Administration to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis, Firearms and Explosives.
Raw cannabis would be considered an agricultural commodity regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The plant would be treated like “alcoholic beverage crops” such as barley, hops and grains.
A federal license would be required to operate a cannabis business, and certain prior cannabis convictions could make a person ineligible to obtain that license.
The legislation would bring state-licensed cannabis operators into the federal system to ensure continued access to patients and encourage participation in the legal market.
Revenue from federal marijuana taxes would go to a newly created Law Enforcement Retraining and Successful Second Chances Fund and distributed to various veterans’ mental health programs, state opioid addiction programs or youth cannabis prevention efforts.
A national age limit of 21 would be set for legal cannabis products, which would be enforced by withholding funds from any state seeking to lower that age. This limit would not apply to medical cannabis. Advertisements targeted at minors or misleading would be prohibited.
The Treasury Department would be required to conduct periodic studies of the characteristics of the cannabis industry and make recommendations for improving the regulation and tax administration of cannabis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics would also be responsible for regularly reporting data on ownership and employment in the cannabis industry.
Military veterans would not be able to be discriminated against in hiring for federal jobs because of their cannabis use, and Department of Veterans Affairs physicians would be allowed to make medical cannabis recommendations.