A group of Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Monday to federally decriminalize and tax marijuana, adding an alternative to sweeping Democratic proposals for major marijuana reform and narrow GOP-backed efforts to deschedule the drug in the U.S.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) sponsored the bill, titled the States Reform Act, which would have the federal government treat marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol and remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
The legislation would implement a 3% federal tax on cannabis products to “fund law enforcement, small business, and veterans mental health initiatives,” according to a press release.
The States Reform Act would also release and expunge the records of approximately 2,600 people convicted of “nonviolent, cannabis-only related” federal offenses.
The bill defers to states on matters of regulating marijuana, and no state would need to change its current cannabis policies.
Mace said in an interview with Forbes that she solicited “feedback that’s constructive to put together a bill that both sides, I believe, will get strong bipartisan support.”
Mace’s bill is viewed as a middle ground because it includes expungements— which have been important to Democrats — and also has an excise tax that would benefit community reinvestment, law enforcement and Small Business Administration activities, which could garner the support of Republicans, Marijuana Moment reports.
Mace said she worked with a number of stakeholders on the bill, from law enforcement to advocacy groups. “It’s got input from a lot of different groups, to make it, I think, a really good, solid, compromise bill over what has been previously filed,” Mace told Forbes. Weldon Angelos, who worked with Mace’s office with partners at the Cannabis Freedom Alliance on the legislation, told Marijuana Moment that while he would have liked to see more social equity provisions, he thinks the bill is a strong starting point for facilitating a bipartisan conversation on what legalization could look like in the country. “The people behind the scenes, like my organization, just want to make this a reality,” Angelos said. “And we can’t get there without this step, which is this bill that’s been introduced by Congresswoman Nancy Mace.”
Mace shared that after a traumatic experience when she was younger, she leaned on cannabis to curb her anxiety and to make it through that time in her life. “For me personally, having that experience and also knowing that for decades now, there are beneficial uses medically… it’s important that the federal government catches up with what’s in the rest of the country,” she said.
Legislation on marijuana has stalled in recent years due to a lack of bipartisan support, but Democrats have been more optimistic this year as they control both chambers of Congress and the White House—and as more states have moved to legalize the drug. A Democratic bill titled the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act cleared the House Judiciary Committee in September, and would remove the federal prohibition on marijuana, expunge prior convictions and establish a tax on cannabis. Lawmakers have set a vote for the bill next month. Senators have been working on their own separate proposal after unveiling a draft of the legislation in July, but an official bill has yet to be released. While Democrats have control of Congress, the margins are slim for passing legalization bills, and are unlikely to pass without GOP backing.
Congress Set To A Vote On MORE Act The First Week Of December (Forbes)