Congressional Democrats are gearing up for a sweeping set of initiatives aimed at decriminalizing marijuana that they plan to take action on this spring.
The federal proposals seek to establish 21st century banking services for the nearly $18 billion industry and purge the criminal records of thousands of marijuana offenders.
“The growing bipartisan momentum for cannabis reform shows that Congress is primed for progress in 2022, and we are closer than ever to bringing our cannabis policies and laws in line with the American people,” Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) wrote in a memo to the Congressional Cannabis Caucus on Thursday.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans — including roughly half of Republicans — support legalizing marijuana, the memo noted citing a 2020 Gallup poll. The past year saw five states join in allowing recreational cannabis — New Mexico, New Jersey, Virginia and Connecticut — as well as “a wealth of policy ideas” in Congress “targeted at ending cannabis prohibition,” the lawmakers noted.
The memo is a road map to dozens of bills that seek to reimagine the role of the federal government in every aspect of the cannabis industry, with some measures receiving GOP support.
Bills like the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, sponsored by Lee and Blumenauer, seek to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act and purge records for those convicted of using marijuana.
Other bills would allow the development of a legal cannabis market in Washington, D.C.; enshrine the legality of state cannabis programs and the possibility that they should cover even federal workers; and provide for cannabis research trials for PTSD, while prohibiting retribution by the Veterans’ Administration against physicians who recommend the substance.
Another key bill, the SAFE Banking Act sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), would allow the cannabis industry access to an array of financial services such as commercial loans, checking accounts and credit-card processing.
“Under current law, financial institutions providing banking services to legitimate and licensed cannabis businesses under state laws are subject to criminal prosecution under several federal statutes such as ‘aiding and abetting’ a federal crime and money laundering,” Perlmutter’s explainer on the bill states.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Saul Elbein on The Hill
Published: December 18, 2021
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