Congress to consider marijuana-related legislation in the Spring
A federal retake of marijuana is looking like a possibility after congressional Democrats announced a sweeping plan aimed at decriminalizing the plant, establishing banking for the billion-dollar industry, and purging the criminal records of thousands of convicted marijuana offenders. The legal industry is currently valued at $18 billion and popularity for cannabis legalization continues to grow all across the country.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans, including about half of Republicans, reported supporting legalization during the 2020 Gallup Poll. Five states legalized the recreational sale and use of cannabis this year, applying pressure on Congress to take action at the federal level. Dozens of proposals are expected to result from the Democrats’ roadmap, some of which are even receiving support from the GOP.
Federal law is far behind many state laws, including states with the most restrictive medical marijuana programs. Marijuana is currently a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act will seek to remove this classification and expunge records related to non-violent marijuana convictions. The MORE Act has failed to gain Republican support in the past, but attitudes towards marijuana prohibition continue to rapidly change.
Currently, marijuana dispensaries in the retail and medical business cannot legally conduct their business using proper banking, because federal law prohibits banks from doing business with those engaging in activity considered illegal at the federal level. The SAFE Banking Act would allow the industry access to a number of financial services, including checking accounts, credit-card processing, and commercial loans.
Federal law regarding marijuana remains outdated and it’s time members of Congress take the issue seriously. Federal law prohibits scientific research of cannabis because of its classification as a Schedule I substance. The Medical Marijuana Act would remove federal restrictions on researchers studying the plant and assure that researchers have access to the product most commonly used. While change in marijuana law may be incremental, Congress is hoping to tackle these issues in the Spring.