Federal Cannabis Legislation Roundup: Part 1

With so many new proposals for reconceptualized federal cannabis legislation floating around Congress, this summary should help clarify the differences to distinguish each bill from the others. This post will cover the MORE Act, the PREPARE Act, the States Reform Act, and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. Part two in this series will cover the SAFE Banking Act, the Medical Marijuana Research Act, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, and the Hemp Advancement Act.

Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) would end federal prohibition of cannabis by removing it from the list of banned substances. The bill is sponsored by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who, like others who have proposed federal cannabis legislation, cites the near-consensus opinion among Americans for legalization of marijuana, as well as greater racial and social equity, as his reasons for introducing the bill.

The MORE Act has an established history of support—more than any other federal cannabis legalization bill. The MORE Act initially passed through the House of Representatives in 2020 before losing support in the Senate, where a vote on the bill was never held. The bill passed through the House of Representatives again in March, and the slim Democrat majority in the Senate provides a more encouraging future for the bill than in 2020, when Republicans controlled the Senate.

Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act

The Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE Act) is a bill that would require the US Attorney General to lead a commission to oversee the process of making recommendations for a cannabis regulation system comparable to the current alcohol regulation system. The commission would oversee “study[ing] a prompt and plausible pathway to the Federal regulation of cannabis.”

The bill was introduced by Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH) and co-sponsors Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Representative Brian Mast (R-FL). The constitution of a specialized commission is what separates the PREPARE Act from the others. On the other hand, Joyce, like Nadler, stated that overwhelming support for cannabis legalization and social justice as the primary motives for his bill. The bill has not yet been voted on by the House of Representatives.

States Reform Act

The States Reform Act, introduced in November of 2021 by Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC), aims at removing cannabis as a Schedule I banned substance while respecting the rights of states to determine the level of cannabis reform and keeping Americans and their children safe. Like Nadler’s bill, the States Reform Act would decriminalize cannabis federally and defer cannabis regulation to the states, just like alcohol.

The State Reform Act also contains provisions regarding loans to cannabis-related small businesses, specifically stating that the Administrator of the Small Business Administration cannot discriminate against cannabis-related businesses by declining to provide loans to these businesses. The bill has not yet been voted on by the House of Representatives.

Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act was introduced on July 14, 2021, by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and co-sponsors Senator Cory Booker (D-NY) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). One of the reasons this bill is unique is because of who sponsors it—senators from the majority party, rather than representatives (like the other three bills discussed in this post).

The bill would remove marijuana and THC from the Controlled Substances Act, transfer regulatory jurisdiction of cannabis from the DEA to the FDA, and impose a federal excise tax on marijuana sales. The bill also calls for a study of the impacts of driving under the influence of marijuana, a study of the impacts of cannabis on the human brain, and funding for states for expungement proceedings for individuals convicted of marijuana-related crimes at the state level. The bill has not yet been voted on by the House of Representatives.

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If the prevalence of new federal cannabis legislation proves anything, it is that there is gaining momentum in Congress of a complete paradigm shift towards cannabis. The challenge will be to agree on a proposal. With potential changes in the composition of Congress on the horizon, we will see whether this momentum can be sustained long enough to result in new federal legislation.

Stay tuned for part two in this series, surveying the SAFE Banking Act, the Medical Marijuana Research Act, the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, and the Hemp Advancement Act. In the meantime, check out the following related posts on bills related to federal cannabis legalization:

Not All Cannabis Reform is a Good Thing
The MORE Act Will Not Legalize Cannabis. Not Like You’re Thinking
Federal Legalization: The New MORE Act
Cannabis Legalization: MORE Act Again Clears the House
Federal Cannabis Legalization: PREPARE Act
The Marijuana Banking Bill is Off to a Good Start
The SAFE Banking Act – Progress on All Fronts
ICYMI: House Passes the SAFE Banking Act!
The SAFE Banking Act’s Reintroduction in 2021
Marijuana Banking: SAFE Banking Act is Dead on Arrival. Again.
Reefer Sadness? SAFE Banking Act is Back
New Kid on the Block: STATES Reform Act

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