The States Reform Act

Representative Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina, submitted legislation that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level by removing it from the DEA’s scheduled substance list.  Representative Mace says she’s trying to make legislation that’s “palatable” for states all across the country and people on each side of the aisle. That’s her explanation for why she hopes to legalize cannabis at the federal level, but still, give states the right to choose how to handle the substance.  “The States Reform Act takes special care to keep Americans and their children safe while ending federal interference with state cannabis laws. Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward. This bill does that,” the Congresswoman said.  Under the States Reform Act, local and state governments would not be pressured in any way to change their policies regarding marijuana; this simply addresses the federal government’s view of the substance’s criminality. Cannabis would be regulated in a similar way to alcohol at each level of its growth, production, and sale – the USDA would look after growers, the ATF/TTB would regulate cannabis products, and the FDA would oversee medical marijuana. Medical marijuana would be protected for specific uses:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Sickle cell
  • PTSD
  • Other uses determined by individual states

The bill would institute a 3% federal excise tax on marijuana products, leaving states free to impose their own taxes at their own discretion. The federal money would go to fund law enforcement, small businesses, and veterans’ mental health initiatives.  It also specifies that people convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related crimes that would no longer be considered crimes will be released from jail or prison and have the issue expunged. That would affect 2,600 people convicted of federal crimes, along with thousands more between individual states.  There are other Republicans signing on to the bill, too. California Representative Tom McClintock, Arkansas Rep. Don Young, Representative Brian Mast, and Michigan Representative Peter Meijer all co-sponsored the bill.  The Controlled Substances Act defines marijuana as a Schedule I drug – a substance or chemical with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Currently, 39 states plus the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands all have legal medical marijuana. The CDC says marijuana is used for medical purposes, but says scientists are “still learning about the health effects and the potential health benefits of using marijuana.” The FDA has also approved an anti-seizure drug made from the marijuana plant.  Mace says she’s looking for bipartisan support in the bill, and she truly thinks she’ll get it. She believes the draw is in what makes her bill different. Specifically, her bill stands out because of a low excise tax and her plan for how to regulate cannabis. Despite her push for bipartisanship, Rep. Mace is by no means friendly toward liberal causes as a whole. She frequently posts online complaining about Democrats’ accusations of racism and at one point “Fauci’s cruel and barbaric experiments on innocent puppies.” 

Left or Right

Mace’s bill directly competes with other legislation that democrats have been trying to pass for years, though proponents of the bill say the goal isn’t to compete, but rather to create legislation that both parties will support.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat serving in New York, created the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act with Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, and New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker. That bill’s goals are extremely similar – de-scheduling cannabis federally while allowing states to set their own policies; it expunges prior convictions for things that would no longer be considered crimes; it also seeks to reinvest tax revenue from marijuana to help communities impacted by the War on Drugs. Another grant program established by that law would help small businesses start up within the cannabis industry. The tax rate for marijuana under the Opportunity Act would be significantly higher than Rep. Mace’s bill, with the general tax rate starting at 10% the year of passage, rising to 15% the next year, 20% the year after that, and then settling out at 25% thereafter. The first draft of that bill came out in July. The Democrats’ bill also discusses regulation, just as the States Reform Act does. Senator Schumer’s vision has the FDA registering marijuana producers and the Treasury Department approving any business that intends to sell cannabis. 

Chuck Schumer at a podium speaking to the media Source: Shutterstock
Still, Representative Mace feels her bill is the superior option. “Today, only 3 states lack some form of legal cannabis. My home state of South Carolina permits CBD, Florida allows medical marijuana, California and others have full recreational use, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality,” said Rep. Mace in a statement. “This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses, and it is good for criminal justice reform. Furthermore, a super-majority of Americans support an end to cannabis prohibition, which is why only 3 states in the country have no cannabis reform at all.” The Congresswoman has also been promoting her bill on social media, telling her followers on Twitter, “It’s a clean framework at the federal level. Most Americans will find something they can agree with in this thing, no matter where you land politically.” In another tweet, the lawmaker wrote, “Federal prohibition isn't working and states know it. 47 have spoken and want Washington to get out of the way on #cannabis.”’

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Bud is Bipartisan

Americans overwhelmingly support marijuana legalization. Gallup has a 68% supermajority of the country polled as saying they’re okay with adults using cannabis, as Wikileaf reported previously. That breaches party lines, with Republican support for legalization skyrocketing. Gallup has found 49% of people who identify as Conservatives support the legalization of recreational cannabis, compared to 87% of people who identify as Liberal and 74% who labeled their ideology as Moderate.