Federal marijuana legalization in the U.S. looked to be almost a lost cause with Congressional support for the plant plateauing and President Joe Biden’s office offering no support.
But a new proposal from Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina has revitalized hope for a solution before April 20 of next year. That’s the target date, after all, before which Democrat Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged federal action would be taken to at least take the plant off the Schedule 1 list of banned drugs.
The States Reform Act is still being pieced together by Mace and Republican leaders, but a final version could be filed by the end of the month. Marijuana Moment reported the 116-page draft legislation would federally decriminalize marijuana, not fully legalize it. But the law would mandate that the feds still respect legalization in individual states — meaning Uncle Sam would leave alone medical cannabis laws in the 35 states and adult-use regulations in the 19 states that permit the plant.
The act proposes taking marijuana off Schedule 1 and imposing a federal excise tax of 3.75 percent on dispensary sales to customers. Proceeds from the tax would benefit federal substance abuse treatment programs, bolster law enforcement resources and cover regulatory costs.
Importantly, it’d also theoretically open the door for legal weed to cross state lines — which is currently banned nationwide and would help cannabis business to skyrocket. Marijuana commerce would be regulated by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The measure would also let people convicted of certain low-level cannabis crimes to have those crimes expunged, and ex-military members could legally be prescribed the plant from their U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doctors.
Both parties will likely amend the proposal before sending it to Biden’s desk. Even if Congress can work together and actually pass the bill, there’s no guarantee the president would support it. A request for comment to the White House’s press office went unanswered on Monday.
Biden has remained relatively quiet on cannabis since taking office in January. But he campaigned in favor of decriminalizing the plant, not legalizing it. White House press spokeswoman Jen Psaki in June confirmed that Biden’s opinion had not changed.