A Republican lawmaker introduced a comprehensive federal marijuana reform bill that would deschedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The measure – the States Reform Act (SRA) – is sponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and would also facilitate expungements for prior marijuana convictions, impose a three percent federal excise tax, and amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to allow for the inclusion of marijuana-based foods, drugs and dietary supplements.
States would retain the authority to continue prohibiting cannabis if they wish to do so, as is the case with alcohol. However, states that decide to prohibit cannabis would not be allowed to stop the transportation of marijuana through its jurisdiction to another state where it is legal.
Mace’s bill is similar to other comprehensive federal cannabis reform bills that are in the works on Capitol Hill, such as the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act and draft Cannabis Administration and Opportunity (CAO) Act. Unlike those measures though, the SRA would amend the CSA to explicitly exclude cannabis, rather than just remove it, in the same way as distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages and tobacco.
As with the CAO Act and the MORE Act, marijuana’s descheduling from the CSA would be applied retroactively to any “offense committed, case pending, [and] conviction entered,” which means those with prior cannabis convictions could petition the courts for expungement. This provision would not extend, however, to those with violent offenses or who have worked with a drug cartel.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would assume responsibilities for regulating marijuana products, as it does with alcohol. Regarding marijuana-infused foods and dietary supplements, the FDA would be charged with determining the rules for potency and serving amounts.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau would be renamed the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Tax and Trade Bureau and assume authority over issuing permits for marijuana imports, exports, sales, deliveries and transport across state and international borders. It would also determine labeling requirements, collect taxes and institute a track-and-trace program to prevent diversion.
Any person with a state marijuana license for production, distribution, warehousing or transportation would be eligible to apply for such a permit.
The SRA’s provisions on taxation and revenue spending also differ from the MORE Act and the CAO Act in several ways. The SRA’s three percent excise tax would be the only federally-mandated tax on marijuana, and Congress would be prohibited from increasing it for at least ten years.
The tax would be levied on wholesale marijuana and the revenues collected would go towards funding various social equity initiatives including the Crisis Stabilization and Community Reentry Grant Program, the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, and the Small Business Administration to help provide loans to low-income persons to start or support a marijuana business.
Mace’s SRA is the latest indication that meaningful reform of federal cannabis law is coming. The MORE Act was approved by the House of Representatives in December 2020, and is likely to be considered once again in 2022.
Meanwhile, the CAO Act, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Ron Wyden and Cory Booker, is currently under revision following a feedback period on a draft version. It’s expected to be introduced to the Senate in the coming months.