USA Federal Cannabis Legalization Bill
There has been an emerging revolution in the US for the legalization of cannabis since the latter part of the 20th century. However, to better understand the current scenario, it is vital to take a look at the past. What led to the ban of cannabis in the first place?
It started with 1910’s Mexican revolution in which several Mexicans gained entry to the United States. With them came the convention of consuming marijuana. It led to growing hysteria and the spread of weird rumors that seemed to gain momentum through the years.
However, it was in 1930 that Harry J. Anslinger decided to declare a war on marijuana. While his assumptions and reasons were remarkably racist, he was successful in passing the Marijuana Tax Act in the year 1937. It made cannabis illegal throughout the US.
However, in 1969, this act was announced as unconstitutional. But, there was no relief as the subsequent Controlled Substances Act was reinforced the following year, 1970. As per the act, marijuana was listed under the classification of Schedule I drugs.
With 42 states plus Washington DC approving the legalization of cannabis to some extent, there is hope for change to occur soon. However, when the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill shall pass still remains unclear.
The Controlled Substances Act
Before grasping the implications of the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill, it is essential to understand the act that banned it in the first place.
In the Controlled Substances Act or CSA, THCs or tetrahydrocannabinols and Marijuana, are listed as hallucinogens under Schedule I drugs. Here, marijuana refers to all parts of the Cannabis sativa L. plant, irrespective of growing or otherwise. It includes seeds, resin, salt, compound, derivative, preparation, and mixture.
The Agriculture Improvement Act in 2018 brought some modifications. Here, hemp has the definition as the cannabis plant that has a less than 0.3% concentration of THC. As such, hemp was removed from the CSA.
States that have legalized the sale of cannabis in some form
Only eight states still denounce cannabis as illegal. The rest 42 plus Washington, DC, have passed cannabis reform legislature in some form. However, there are minute differences that make each state law different from the other.
35 states plus Washington, DC have approved of medical usage of cannabis. However, not all are operational, and some provide only limited coverage. However, there are states which allow for restricted usage of CBD without the passage of any medical legislation.
Decriminalization of marijuana is prevalent in 32 states. However, there are states – North Carolina and Nebraska have not yet legalized it.
Washington DC, along with sixteen states, allows the residents to use cannabis for recreational services. However, there are some conditions, such as legal age, a specific amount, a limited number of plants growing, etc.
The effect of repealing the federal ban on cannabis
As per the Marijuana Business Factbook, 2020, the marijuana industry in the US has a valuation of above $18 billion. Moreover, it provides a minimum of 300,000 full-time jobs or equivalent job positions. With an astounding growth rate, the cannabis market can develop exponentially in the next few years. However, it is only possible when the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill comes into existence.
The effect of repealing the cannabis ban on the federal level is massive. For starters, it will aid the cannabis businesses. Without legislature prohibiting banks from offering financial aid, the companies are unlikely to shut down due to economic struggles.
Moreover, the federal ban also causes issues with state laws. Though numerous states have approved cannabis in some form, there are a lot of grey areas. This particularly disrupts the distribution and networking of cannabis products. With interstate commence still illegal, it becomes difficult to follow the different state regulations. Thus, passing the cannabis bill is definitely the need of the hour.
Furthermore, decriminalization of cannabis can bring an end to the systemic racism that has occurred throughout the years. In America, black people are four times more prone to face arrests in comparison to white people.
What do the American people think about the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill?
It might come as a surprise, but the majority of the American people are in favor of the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill.
In 1969, Gallup measured the public opinion on the legalization of marijuana. At that time, it was a mere 12%. However, by 1977, it had increased to 28%. In the latest poll conducted in November of 2020, a whopping 68% of the Americans voted in favor of the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill.
Ever since Washington DC and Colorado become the first-ever states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, other states followed. Over the years, several states have opted for cannabis legalization – either for recreational, medicinal, or both.
Moreover, as per Gallup, data from early 2020 displays that about 70% of adults in the US think public smoking of marijuana is acceptable morally.
There is a direct correlation between public support and the legalization of marijuana as per the state laws. Though it is unclear if the laws had influence over the peoples or vice versa, the fact is that US adults are leaning towards cannabis legalization.
With such public support, it is highly possible for the federal legalization of cannabis to occur soon.
Landmark Cannabis bills that passed the US House
Though cannabis federal legalization bill 2021 is yet to occur, the US House of Representatives has passed two vital bills in an effort to repeal the federal ban.
On 4th December 2020, the US House of Representatives passed a landmark bill with a vote of 228 to 164. The passing of the MORE or Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act removed cannabis and marijuana from the CSA and legalized them. Moreover, it also states the elimination of some criminal records with respect to cannabis.
There are various stipulations to the bill, such as a tax of 5% on all cannabis products, the establishment of a trust fund in order to support the communities impacted severely by the “war on drugs.”
Whether this legislation will pass in the US senate is unknown, there is still a reason to hope. It is true that there are ways to pass the bill without bipartisan support. However, whether the exception will apply in regard to this particular bill is unclear.
Another reform bill on cannabis that the US House of Representatives passed on 19th April 2021 is the SAFE Banking Act. The bill was passed with a 321-101 and is a step towards the legalization of cannabis on the federal level.
According to the SAFE Banking Act, different financial institutions, including banks, can now offer financial help to the marijuana businesses without consequences.
What are the things that could potentially block the cannabis reform bill?
With Democrats having control of both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, passing a bill should have been easy. However, the reality is much more complex than simply passing the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill.
In order to pass any marijuana reform bill in the US senate, 60 votes are necessary. That means that not only do the Democrats need their entire party’s support, they are also in need of some Republican backing.
However, issues within the Democratic Party itself can threaten the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill. For instance, Senator of New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen is not in favor of legalizing marijuana. Additionally, the senator of Montana, Jon Tester, has a similar opinion. If the Democratic party cannot get its full support, Republicans are highly unlikely to offer any assistance.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader for the Democratic Party, is insistent on passing some kind of reform bill on cannabis. However, with the blocking of the simple SAFE Banking Act, the chances of federal legalization of cannabis are slim as of now.
Could 2021 be the year that brings the legalization of cannabis at the federal level?
With the US House of Representatives passing two cannabis reform bills, there seems to be hope for the legalization of cannabis at the federal level.
Also, more and more states seem to be on the path of legalizing or at least decriminalizing cannabis. The change that has occurred over only a decade is astonishing. Just ten years, none of the states allowed the recreational usage of cannabis legally. And, now over 40% of US residents live in a place that has legalized cannabis in some form.
Moreover, with federal legalization, more prominent investors would feel confident in investing in the US cannabis market. This, in turn, can contribute to the economy of the United States. Though 2021 could be the year for the cannabis legalization bill, there is no definite information yet.
The pathway to passing the USA Federal Cannabis legalization bill is long and arduous. Without bipartisan support, the bill is unlikely to see any kind of future. However, there is still hope of introducing some form of the cannabis reform bill in the nation in the near future. However, to predict a certain date for the revolution to culminate is impossible. That is exactly why the federal legalization bill 2021 status remains undecided.
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