What the future of state cannabis legislation looks like with the new Congress
Around the 118th Congress and what it can and cannot achieve in the next two years. With the House of Representatives now controlled by Republicans and the Senate and Executive Branch remaining Democratic, there will certainly be some disagreements and higher hurdles to overcome if lawmakers hope to pass meaningful legislation.
But one issue that had forward momentum at the previous convention and that has built a bit of bipartisan support is marijuana policy. A perfect example of how accurate the bipartisan legalization of cannabis has become is the State Reform Actsponsored by Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace.
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We had the opportunity to correspond with Representative Mace via email after she and other lawmakers attended a November 15 hearing entitled “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level.” We wondered how this hearing got you thinking about cannabis legalization during the 118th Congress and the current course of the State Reform Act.
Regarding the hearing, “the room was filled with passionate supporters who want to see our country take this historic step forward,” Congresswoman Mace wrote. “We were cautiously optimistic and full of energy for further progress,” she continued.
When asked about the current schedule for her bill, she said the schedule remains the same. “Co-promoters of the bill and I are urging that the bill pass this Congress with an alternative strategy for the text going into the 118th Congress,” Mace wrote.
It’s clear that Congresswoman Mace is determined to reach down the aisle in Washington to make this law work and get through to those who are still skeptical about cannabis in both parties. “Something that’s so popular across the country shouldn’t remain so controversial in DC,” the congresswoman wrote. Regarding the political change in Congress from the Democratic to the Republican party, the Republican congresswoman remains optimistic about the chances of the bill.
“A Republican change in Congress could bring more support for the States Reform Act,” Mace wrote. “States should be given the right to choose their own path regarding cannabis, and the conservative case for a limited federal government provides a framework for this type of policy,” she continued. She also wrote that the Republicans she spoke to “recognize that our party will bear the burden of getting this right.”
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We also had the opportunity to meet John Hudak, Ph.D. Associate Director of the Center for Effective Public Management and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings on the hearings and future development of cannabis reform.
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“The last hearing in Congress was a breath of fresh air from our day-to-day politics because it highlighted an issue that has bipartisan support from all kinds of ideologies in Congress,” Hudak wrote in an email.
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Hudak was also a little optimistic about the final weeks of the 117th Congress and their ability to get some meaningful work done in their Lame Duck session.
“Although full legalization will not come through during the lame duck, there is a possibility that meaningful incremental reforms will come through the US Senate,” he wrote. The current congress and lame duck session ends on January 3rd.
However, Hudak is far less optimistic about the next few years. “The opportunity for cannabis reform efforts will die with the current 117th Congress,” he wrote. “Leaders in the Republican House of Representatives have shown very little interest, and in some cases outright opposition, to large-scale cannabis reform,” he wrote.
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The only thing that is really certain about the 118th Congress is that no one is really sure about anything. Conservatives have been slower to push cannabis legalization than liberals, but people like MP Mace and her co-sponsors are examples of those who can change that viewpoint and stigma surrounding conservatives and cannabis, and in return can only help bring about some changes in the Marijuana Laws in the 118th Congress.