Republican U.S. Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina unveiled a bill to regulate and tax marijuana on Monday, offering 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 would be decriminalized at the federal level and states would be free to set their own cannabis regulatory policies.
At a press conference to unveil the legislation held at the Capitol on Monday afternoon, Mace noted that only three states currently 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,” Mace said in written comments prepared for the event. “This is why I’m introducing the States Reform Act, a bill which seeks to remove cannabis from Schedule I in a manner consistent with the rights of states to determine what level of cannabis reform each state already has, or not.”
Mace, appearing with a contingent of stakeholders, veterans, and law enforcement officers, noted that public opinion polls show that a supermajority of Americans are in favor of reforming the nation’s cannabis laws. She added that her bill supports farmers, businesses, law enforcement, and medical marijuana patients while furthering the cause of criminal justice reform.
Bill Lets States Decide on Legalization
Under Mace’s bill, cannabis would be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and the states would be allowed to take the lead on marijuana legalization and regulation for their jurisdictions. At the federal level, cannabis would be regulated like alcohol, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for regulating growers while medical uses would be overseen by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will regulate cannabis products under the bill. The States Reform Act also levies a three percent federal excise tax on cannabis products, with revenue raised dedicated to funding law enforcement, small business, and veterans mental health initiatives.
Mace’s bill also ensures safe harbor for state medical marijuana programs and patient access to medicinal 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 of the bill include the release of prisoners convicted of federal nonviolent cannabis-related offenses and expungement of records of such convictions. Cartel members, agents of cartel gangs or those convicted of driving under the influence will not be eligible for relief, however. Mace’s office estimated that approximately 2,600 federal prisoners would be released if the legislation is signed into law.
Alternative to Democrats’ Legalization Plan
Mace’s 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 his bill, known as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, marijuana would be taxed at a much higher rate of 25.5 percent, with proceeds funding broad social equity and economic development programs.
Graham Farrar, the president and co-founder of California vertically integrated cannabis company Glass House Brands, characterized the new legalization proposal as “exciting stuff,” adding the legislation “just removed the question on whether this is a bipartisan issue or not.” Farrar said Mace’s bill could also spur support for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and predicted the chances that Congress would pass cannabis banking legislation this year have increased substantially.
“If the Republicans and the Democrats want to get in a pissing match on who can legalize better, I’m all for it! I think the move significantly ups the odds across the board,” he wrote in an electronic message.
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 path through Republican resistance.”
“The fact that a Republican is dropping a legalization bill is very encouraging because it will display a middle ground toward accomplishing this ever-important goal—the legalization of cannabis,” Kovacevich wrote in an email. “Furthermore, this is a smart move by the GOP since they are gaining momentum into the midterms and cannabis is such a popular issue with the voters. If successful with cannabis legalization, it could result in broad election success come a year from now.”