While Californians freely search Google for “marijuana delivery Los Angeles,” the House passed legislation that would effectively legalize cannabis nationwide. The bill, called the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, not only legalizes weed federally, it also removes criminal penalties for those caught making, selling, or possessing the herb. The world is catching up.
In a 220-204 vote, lawmakers approved the bill a week ago. They passed it last year in the House too. However, it failed to pass Senate then. Further to federal decriminalization of cannabis nationwide, the measure also imposes a sales tax for related products. It also establishes procedures for expunging the criminal records of previous cannabis offenders.
Federal Cannabis Tax
The imposition of a cannabis tax is foremost on this measure. It would start at five percent and over time grow to eight percent. This tax would fund skills development, job training, substance-use programs, mentoring, re-entry services, legal aid, and recreational programs for the youth. It proposes other benefits too, particularly for those disadvantaged economically and socially.
In this way, the tax fund would provide loans to small cannabusinesses in need of them, if they fit this criterion. It would support them in every way. “This landmark legislation is one of the most important criminal justice reform bills in recent history,” remarked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the floor about the bill. What is more, the bill considers every contingency.
As Pelosi explained, the legislation would deliver “justice for those harmed by the brutal, unfair consequences of criminalization, open opportunities for people to participate in the industry and decriminalize pot at the federal level so we do not repeat the grave mistakes of our past.” This is crucial, since states are legalizing and rendering federal law archaic and irrelevant.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 37 states and Washington, D.C. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, recreational weed is legal in 18 states, as well as Washington, D.C. Back in 1996, California became the first state to legalize pot for medical use. The last few decades brought many changes at state level. “Now, it is time for the federal government to follow suit,” Pelosi said.
Marijuana Research Bill
Then, on Monday, the House approved a bipartisan research bill intended to streamline cannabis study. It achieves this, in part, by giving researchers access to products at state-legal stores nationwide. Promisingly, this comes just a few days after the House approved the legalization bill, and for its second time too. It follows on the heels of a similar study bill approved unanimously in the Senate last month.
Dubbed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, it passed the House with a 343-75 vote. Sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR, who supports legalization and the outspoken prohibitionist Rep. Andy Harris, R-MD, the bill, makes it easier for scientists to study dispensary products. Real ones that people use, not that from state-grown weed.
“The cannabis laws in this country are broken,” Blumenauer explained in a press release. “Including those that deal with the medical research of marijuana. America’s growing cannabis industry operates without the benefit of a robust research program.” This is true. “Instead,” he said, “we are outsourcing research to Israel, the United Kingdom and Canada, to our detriment.”
Need for Legal Study
Lawmakers claim a need for easier research. Past restrictions to access have made study difficult. According to Blumenauer, “One example of this policy failure is our inability to effectively test for cannabis impairment. Employees are failing drug tests, not because they are impaired, but because they used recreational or medical cannabis in the last month.” It is shortsighted, illogical and very destructive.
Managing bills on the floor on Monday for the majority was Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman for the House. He claims that passing a federal legalization bill for cannabis last week and that state-level reforms are “highlighting the need for increased research about the safety and efficacy of the marijuana products being consumed by millions of Americans.”
According to Pallone, this bill “is an important step towards understanding the positive and negative health effects of the products being frequently consumed by people across our country.” If people can search so easily “weed delivery near me” on Google, best the state ensures that the products they buy are safe. The bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-VA, also stood in support.
Catching Up, Finally
While recognizing the differing views of members on wider cannabis reform, Griffith said they have “joined forces to advocate for more research on the use of cannabis products to treat medical conditions.” Another co-sponsor, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-MI, said the nation has “seen dramatic changes in the legal status of marijuana at the state level, my state included.”
Federal catching up is now essential. Dingell added that the “federal framework for conducting marijuana research is decades old and it has not kept pace with these changes.” Nobody anywhere can disagree with that. “It is high time we modernize our nation’s federal regulations to facilitate legitimate medical research into the impacts of marijuana,” she said.
Meanwhile, Harris spoke sense too, saying that the bill “makes it easier to do rigorous medical research – the same type of research we expect to be done on any of the drugs that are sold as medicines in this country.” The potential for medical research is huge, not restricted. For example, scientists are learning how different cannabinoids, different terpenes, have different effects and, ultimately, different uses.
Federal Future for Cannabis
Of course, the Senate must still pass the legalization bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is working with Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in their chamber to draft the right legislation. However, because advancing to a final vote would require all Democrats and at least 10 Republicans to outvote a 60-vote hurdle, prospects for Senate approval still seem murky. For now.