Following the midterm elections, cannabis advocates are pushing for federal reform before it’s too late.
Sparking The Descheduling Conversation
House Democrats and Republicans have published a joint memo ahead of a congressional subcommittee meeting on marijuana on November 15.
The memo primarily supports the de-scheduling of cannabis from the controlled substances act. This would remedy most of the problems resulting from prohibition, like unfair arrest rates and lack of access to medical research.
Another key point made by the memo is that it prepares the publishers for the upcoming committee meeting, which will be dedicated to discussing issues around marijuana legalization. The note discusses the consequences of the prohibition on communities of color and veterans and mentions employment consequences that exist despite the legalization in several states.
It also brings up the lack of access to financial services for cannabis businesses as well. It points out that this risk is exacerbated by federal regulations that prevent companies from opening bank accounts or obtaining loans — making it harder for them to succeed in an industry where new businesses are popping up every day.
The memo argues for competitive tax advantages for those trying to legalize cannabis operations — specifically mentioning bills like SRA or MORE Act — because it would help reduce consumer costs while ensuring a competitive marketplace exists so those producers can thrive too.
The Cannabis Reform Hearing
The House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties met on November 15 for a meeting entitled “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level.” The hearing was chaired by Chairman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Ranking Member Nancy Mace (R-SC).
The subcommittee heard from three main groups:
- Invited witnesses who discussed their personal experiences with cannabis legalization.
- Representatives from various cannabis advocacy groups, who spoke about what they felt needed to be addressed by federal reform efforts.
- Members of Congress.
The hearing discussed cannabis reform and, in particular, the need for de-scheduling cannabis, banking reform, federal employment protections for cannabis users, and the attempt to rectify racial disparities in cannabis arrests and convictions.
Descheduling would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This would allow states to regulate cannabis without interference from the federal government. It would also mean that banks could work with businesses in the industry without fear of prosecution.
Banking reform is an essential issue because it has become increasingly difficult for any business that deals with cannabis to obtain a bank account. This can be especially problematic when it comes to paying taxes, which all companies must do.
Federal employment protections are necessary because many people who work in states where recreational use is legal still face discrimination when they try to find employment. This is especially true for those who work in law enforcement or medicine, where they may be required to take a drug test.
Finally, there has been much discussion about racial disparities in arrests and convictions related to marijuana use – specifically, how black Americans are more likely than white Americans to face arrest or conviction for using marijuana despite similar usage rates among both groups.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who supports legalization, discussed President Joe Biden’s recent mass marijuana pardons during her testimony. She claimed that while she felt the spirit of the order was in the right place, it needed to do more to address everything that needed rectification.
The hearing featured representatives from a variety of companies and interest groups that support legalization, including Randall Woodfin, mayor of Birmingham; Andrew Freedman, executive director of Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR); Eric Goepel, founder and CEO of Veterans Cannabis Coalition (VCC); Keeda Haynes, senior legal advisor of Free Hearts; Amber Littlejohn, senior policy advisor of Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce (GACC); Jillian Snider, director of criminal justice & civil liberties at R Street Institute.
All witnesses were pro-legalization. Littlejohn says that the current state of policy is causing insane stress to the market and is disproportionately affecting small and minority-owned businesses. NORML’s Armentano claims that ending marijuana prohibition is necessary to bring cohesion to federal and state laws. Goepel discussed mental health and veteran access to medical cannabis being prevented because of the federal ban—he also testified that veterans are dying because they can’t access medicine.
The Craziest Quote To Come Out Of Congress
It’s no surprise that Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who routinely blocked cannabis amendments from advancing to the floor for votes during his time as chair, delivered a series of inflammatory prohibitionist talking points at the hearing on Tuesday.
He even compared cannabis to slavery, saying it has been advocated for by people who want to make money and that cannabis is as bad for the nation as slavery. This argument would be laughed out of court if applied to any other industry.
This is ironic because Sessions has sponsored numerous pro-prison bills, including H.R.29965, which supports for-profit prisons, aka modern-day slave institutions.
We hope this report has been helpful to you, and we encourage you to share it with your friends and family so that they can be better informed about cannabis reform in the United States.
As we’ve seen, there is a growing consensus among politicians, including many Republicans, that cannabis should be legalized or decriminalized. This means that our elected officials are starting to catch up with public opinion—and we hope that change is coming soon!
The data presented here shows us that cannabis reform is possible and desirable for most Americans. We have hope for our country because we know that there are people like you out there who want to see this happen.
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