Republicans Propose Law to Repeal Federal Marijuana Prohibition

Those searching for a sign of the increasing acceptance of cannabis in the United States need look no further than the recently filed bill in the U.S. Congress by two Republicans that would repeal federal marijuana prohibition and give all states the right to determine marijuana laws.

That’s a first for conservative politicians in the U.S. In a world where every issue seems to devolve to partisanship, repealing federal marijuana prohibition apparently can bring people on both sides of the political aisle together. Whether conservative or liberal, people seem more interested in how cannabis can help them with medical issues rather than debating whether it should be legal.

The bill, called the Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act, would end federal marijuana prohibition, protect banks that do business with the cannabis industry and fund further research into the potential uses of medical marijuana.

Rep. David Joyce of Ohio and Rep. Don Young of Alaska filed the bill. In a press release, Joyce said federal prohibition is “neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate.”

What the Act Would Do

The Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act would take several steps that change how federal law regulates marijuana. The act would:

  • Remove cannabis from the federal list of illegal Schedule I substances
  • Remove the prohibition against import and export of marijuana
  • Create federal rules to regulate marijuana in the same way the government regulates alcohol
  • Protect banks from any penalties for providing financial services to the cannabis industry
  • Ensure that veterans can use marijuana if they comply with state laws
  • Give state lawmakers the right to determine cannabis policies in their state
  • Support further research into the potential uses of cannabis

In the news release, Young said the new act would end the federal government’s cannabis policies that have “stood in the way of both individual liberty and a state’s 10th Amendment rights. It is long past time that these archaic laws are updated for the 21st Century.”

Justin Strekal, political director for the marijuana advocacy group NORML, said that support from Republicans is welcome. He said: “It is our hope that more congressional Republicans will follow the lead of Representatives Joyce and Young, as well as the American people, in supporting a repeal of the failed and senseless policy of federal marijuana criminalization by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act.”

What the Act Doesn’t Do

The major difference between the new act proposed by Republicans and the ones proposed by Democrats who also want to repeal federal marijuana prohibition is the lack of addressing social justice issues.

All the proposals at the federal level, and many of the state laws legalizing marijuana, include provisions to expunge past marijuana-related criminal records and set aside a certain portion of marijuana dispensary licenses to people of color most impacted by the War on Drugs. The Republican proposal will likely face push back for not addressing those issues.

Meanwhile, Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York (the Senate Majority Leader), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey are crafting a new marijuana legalization bill expected to address those issues.

What Congress does with these different proposals – if anything – remains to be seen.

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