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Republican-Led Cannabis Legalization?

Nov 16, 2021

This article was updated to reflect developments on November 16, 2021

Historically, when you think of cannabis legalization, you think about Democratic-led bills.  In fact, many experts believed that legalization was going to happen during the Biden Administration.  With a Democratic President, and a Democratic House and Senate, the time finally seemed right for legalization. But, while Vice President Harris has always been a staunch supporter of legalizing cannabis, President Biden has not.  And with the Democratic margins in the House and the Senate shrinking, and COVID-19 and the economy still on everybody’s mind, the Democratic Party seems to have other priorities that rank a little higher than cannabis legalization.  Also, without an alternative to the current tax system, which taxes cannabis at an extremely high effective rate, maybe the chance to legalize cannabis has past us by ….

Or has it?

On November 15, a Republican-led bill titled the “States Reform Act (“SRA”),” an alternative to the Democrats model, was proposed.  Simply put, the Republican-led bill would remove marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act and impose a 3% excise tax on the sale of cannabis products.  Under this proposal, cannabis would be treated similarly to alcohol, thereby removing the Food and Drug Administration FDA as the regulatory body and making the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, to be renamed as The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Tax and Trade Bureau, the chief regulator for the industry.

In addition, as is the case with the proposed “Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act” (the “MORE Act”), and the “Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act” (the “CAO Act”), the SRA would direct federal agencies to expunge each conviction for a non-violet cannabis offense entered prior to the SRA but would exclude those acts of persons who worked for drug cartels.  The SRA proposes a lower excise tax than both the MORE Act and the CAO Act.

The Republican proposal also has limitations on advertising and will allow only those over the age of 21 to purchase and use recreational cannabis.

This bill is being championed by Nancy Mace, R-SC. Representative Mace was the sole Republican to support a recent bill to investigate the therapeutic potential of cannabis for military veterans. One of the requirements for a drug to be considered on Schedule 1 is that is has “no currently accepted medical use in the United States.”

In a recent Gallop Poll, about 68% of Americans support legalizing cannabis.  Surprisingly, while 83% of Democrats support cannabis legalization, 50% of Republicans also support legalization.

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