As industry patience wanes for Sen. Chuck Schumer and company to formally file a Democratic-led bill to end federal cannabis prohibition, a new player in the reform discussion emerged with alternative legislation Monday afternoon.
South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, a rookie U.S. House member who assumed office at the beginning of the year, unveiled the States Reform Act (SRA) during a during a press conference along with stakeholders, veterans and law enforcement members on Nov. 15 at the U.S. Capitol. The legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Ken Buck, R-Colo., Brian Mast, R-Fla., Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Peter Meijer, R-Mich., and Don Young, R-Alaska.
The federal reform effort comes at a time when 69% of Americans support legalizing adult-use cannabis, according to an April 2021 poll from Quinnipiac University, and when 91% of U.S. adults support federal legalization of medical cannabis, according to an April 2021 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
“Today, only three states lack some form of legal cannabis,” Mace said in a release ahead of Monday’s press conference. “My home state of South Carolina permits CBD, Florida allows medical marijuana, California and others have full recreational use, for example. Every state is different. Cannabis reform at the federal level must take all of this into account. And it’s past time federal law codifies this reality.”
Mace’s 131-page draft bill offers an alternative to other federal reform efforts put forth by her colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Specifically, SRA proposes a 3% federal cannabis excise tax and would give state governments the power to regulate cannabis products through health-and-safety oversights of their choosing. But no state would be forced to change its current cannabis policies.
The 3% tax on cannabis products comes with a 10-year moratorium on excise tax increases to ensure “competitive footing” in the market, according to the bill’s text. The tax revenue would fund law enforcement, small businesses and veterans’ mental health initiatives, according to Mace’s office.
“This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses, and it is good for criminal justice reform,” Mace said. “Furthermore, a supermajority of Americans support an end to cannabis prohibition, which is why only three states in the country have no cannabis reform at all.”
SRA not only offers a lower tax option to what Democrats have proposed (25%), but it also moves to put the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which operates under that U.S. Department of the Treasury, in charge of federal regulation for cannabis products in interstate commerce, and for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to oversee medical use.
The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau (ATF) will serve as the primary law enforcement agency supporting the TTB’s work, exactly as it does in the alcohol space, according to the bill’s text. Meanwhile, the FDA would have no more of a role with respect to cannabis than it does with alcohol.
Alternatively, a Democratic-led charge in the upper chamber for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) would