The House of Representatives and De-scheduling MJ
There are two bills and an administrative item in Washington that merit the attention of the cannabis world. They do not address the huge issues of the Israeli-Hamas war, Russia’s war against Ukraine, the national debt, or the budget, but in the world of cannabis, they could be very important.
The first is the H.R. 5601, the Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) refiled on September 22, 2023 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D. NY) and other Democrats. The Act intends to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, and requires the resentencing and expungement of prior convictions with the aim of addressing the disparate impact of enforcement on minority communities. It comes with a rather hefty 10% tax rate that increases to 25% over a period of years.
The second is the not yet fully revealed States Reform Act, (STATES) filed Rep. Nancy Mace (R. SC) with a bi-partisan slate of supporters. This version of the bill is a rehash of the version from the last Congress. That original bill, and presumably the latest version, removes cannabis form Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and allows the federal government to regulate cannabis just like alcohol. The USDA would regulate the farmers and the FDA would regulate the medical uses. The ATF would regulate cannabis products generally, along with the taxing authorities. This bill comes with a 3% tax rate.
In addition to removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, the STATES Act protects medical uses, acknowledges cannabis use for medical treatments, and also protects State laws passed even if they are contrary to federal law.
The gist is that we have two proposed avenues where bipartisan members of Congress seek to decriminalize cannabis. There are differences in the details as set forth in this Forbes article, mostly centering on the tax rates and the focus (or not) on social justice. These differences aside, there appears to be growing momentum and perhaps in conference, these things can be worked out.
The administrative item is the well-publicized request from the US Department of Human Services (HHS) to the DEA to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug, and to recognize its medical uses in the process. We wrote about this previously.
As with all things political in 2023, expecting movement on items that require compromise might be a longshot, but there is at least hope where bi-partisan members of congress agree that something needs to happen. Stay tuned.