Slowly but surely, the effort to legalize marijuana in the U.S. continues. It’s been a long time coming, but it seems like we’re finally approaching marijuana legalization at the federal level. At least that’s how it appears. Both the Democrats and Republicans are working to legalize cannabis, but have different methods of doing so. The bills focus on separate issues when approaching cannabis and its handling. There may have to be some major compromising in order for marijuana to be legalized. Nonetheless, US lawmakers push for marijuana legalization, which is good news at the end of the day.
How does each party’s effort differ? What exact steps are they taking to work towards marijuana legalization in the US?
Marijuana Legalization in the US
Cannabis wasn’t always considered illegal in the U.S. There used to be a time when cannabis possession and usage were permitted. The medicinal properties in cannabis have always existed and thus had been included in treatments. On the other hand, recreational usage of marijuana wasn’t as popular. Americans were exposed to the recreational practice from immigrants of Mexico.
Social and economic problems Americans faced during the Great Depression were taken out on Mexican immigrants. Through racist propaganda, both Mexican immigrants and weed were villainized. As a result, the majority of the states outlawed cannabis.
Eventually, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed. This was the first federal U.S. law to criminalize marijuana at a national level. It criminalized all uses of the plant, yet an exception was made for industrial uses. It also imposed an excise tax on the sale, possession, and transfer of any marijuana product.
Later, the “War on Drugs” was a huge force that completely did away with any usage of cannabis. Initiated by Richard Nixon, the “War on Drugs” became a global campaign to end the illegal drug trade in the U.S. The campaign consisted of military aid and intervention, along with a drug prohibition. President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This is how and when marijuana was listed as a Schedule I drug, along with LSD, ecstasy, heroin, and other hard drugs.
Since then, it’s been a battle for advocates and activists to legalize cannabis. California became the first state to legalize weed for medicinal use with the help of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.
Cannabis continues to be illegal under U.S. federal law. However, many states are slowly changing their laws and legalizing marijuana, whether it’s for medical or recreational use or even both. In fact, support for legalizing marijuana has gained popularity. According to Gallup, 68% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis.
US Lawmakers Push for Marijuana Legalization: Democrats
Democrats have placed a lot of work into marijuana reform. Earlier this year, three senators introduced a comprehensive cannabis legislation to decriminalize marijuana on a federal level. Senators Cory Booker, Ron Wyden, and Chuck Schumer worked together on the bill to propose to congress.
It has been difficult for any bill regarding federal legalization to pass due to it needing bipartisan approval. A minimum of 10 Republican supporters would need to approve the bill.
President Biden’s support for the cannabis community and legalization is mixed. In previous statements, he’s supported medical-use legalization as well as decriminalization for possession. We’ve yet to see his support for full legalization.
US Lawmakers Push for Marijuana Legalization: Republicans
Recently, Republicans have been stepping up and began working to embrace the idea of marijuana legalization. Congresswoman Nancy Mace from South Carolina is sponsoring a bill proposed as an alternative to the Democrats’ proposals. The bill is titled the State Reform Act. This bill would terminate marijuana prohibition while taking steps to ensure the safety of current state cannabis markets.
As an attempt to bridge the partisan divide, it incorporates certain equity provisions. These include expungements of non-violent cannabis convictions and imposing excise taxes. Revenue from cannabis taxes would support community reinvestment, Small Business Administration (SBA), and law enforcement. The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Tom McClintock, Don Young, Brain Mast, and Peter Meijer.
In a statement, Sen. Mace explains that this bill supports multiple groups in our society, including veterans, law enforcement, farmers, those with serious illnesses, etc. “The State Reform Act tales special care to keep Americans and their children safe while ending federal interference with state cannabis laws.”
Unfortunately, Sen. Mace has received backlash from the Republican party of her home state. The South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick issued a statement declaring that the organization is not in support of the congresswoman’s bill. He stated that they opposed any effort to end cannabis prohibition.
What to expect?
Both sides of the aisle have a lot of work to do before we achieve marijuana legalization in the U.S. It’s important that lawmakers do not rush into any decision before clearly thinking about the layout of any bill that may legalize marijuana. Such bill would affect the current and future market, as well as the lives of millions of cannabis consumers, workers, and convicts.