US Republican Representative Nancy Mays of South Carolina unveiled a bill to regulate and tax marijuana on Monday, providing a new path to reach the goal of federal cannabis policy reform. According to a press release, under the legislation, known as the States Reform Act, marijuana will be decriminalized at the federal level and states will be free to set their own cannabis regulation policies.
At a news conference to unveil the legislation held at the Capitol on Monday afternoon, Mays noted that only three states currently lack some form of legal cannabis.
“The CBD states of South Carolina, Florida, allow medical marijuana and California and other full recreational uses, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level should take all of this into account,” Mays said in written comments prepared for the event. It’s time for federal law to codify this reality. “This is why I introduce the States Reform Act, a bill that seeks to remove cannabis from Schedule I in a manner consistent with states’ rights to determine the level of cannabis reform that each state actually has, or not.”
Mace, who appeared with a group of stakeholders, veterans and law enforcement officers, noted that public opinion polls show that the vast majority of Americans support reforming the country’s cannabis laws. She added that her bill supports farmers, businesses, law enforcement and medical marijuana patients while advancing the cause of criminal justice reform.
Draft law allowing states to decide on legalization
Under the Mace bill, cannabis will be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and states will be allowed to take the lead in legalizing marijuana and regulating their jurisdictions. At the federal level, cannabis will be regulated like alcohol, with the USDA responsible for regulating growers while the Food and Drug Administration will oversee medicinal uses.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives The Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Taxes and Trade will regulate cannabis products by law. The State Reform Act also imposes a three percent federal selective tax on cannabis products, with proceeds collected earmarked to fund law enforcement, small businesses, and veterans mental health initiatives.
Mace’s bill also ensures safe harbor for state medical marijuana programs and patient access to medical cannabis. The legislation also specifically protects the use of medical cannabis as a treatment for arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Justice reform provisions in the bill include the release of prisoners convicted of nonviolent federal offenses related to cannabis and the deletion of records of such convictions. However, cartel members, agents of cartel gangs, or those convicted of driving under the influence of drugs will not be eligible for relief. Mays’ office estimated that about 2,600 federal prisoners would be released if the legislation was signed into law.
An alternative to the Democrats’ legalization plan
Mays’ bill serves as an alternative to Democrats’ plans to legalize cannabis at the federal level, including a proposal unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York in July. Under the bill, known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, marijuana would be taxed at a much higher rate of 25.5 percent, with the proceeds funded for broad social justice and economic development programs.
Graham Farrar, president and co-founder of California-based integrated cannabis company Glass House Brands, called the new legalization proposal “exciting stuff,” adding that the legislation “only removed the question of whether or not this was a bipartisan problem.” Farrar said the Mays bill could also spur support for the Safe and Fair Banking Act (SAFE) and anticipate chances of Congress passing Cannabis banking legislation This year it has increased significantly.
“If Republicans and Democrats want to get into a pee match over who can legalize better, I’m all for it! I think this move greatly increases the odds across the board,” he wrote in an email.
Nick Kovacevich, CEO of cannabis accessories distributor Greenlane Holdings, noted that “the current Democratic leadership is eager to legalize cannabis, but the fear is that they won’t be able to find a way through Republican resistance.”
“The fact that Republicans are dropping a legalization bill is very encouraging because it would show common ground toward achieving this always important goal – legalizing cannabis,” Kovacevic wrote in an email. Furthermore, this is a smart move by the Republican Party given that they are gaining momentum in the midterm elections and cannabis is a popular issue with voters. If he succeeds in legalizing cannabis, it could lead to broad electoral success a year from now.”