House lawmakers pitch bipartisan bill to ready US for ‘inevitable’ marijuana legalization

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Three congressional lawmakers – including a Republican leader on the Congressional Cannabis Caucus – introduced a bipartisan bill Thursday to prepare the federal government for the “inevitable end to cannabis prohibition.”

The legislation would create a publicly transparent process for the federal government to develop a regulatory and revenue framework that would be enacted if and when the 85-year prohibition on marijuana ends and the plant is effectively legalized.

U.S. Reps. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican; Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat; and Brian Mast, a Florida Republican, introduced the bill, known as the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) Act.

Joyce, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has been a key leader of cannabis reform among Republicans.

The bill would direct the U.S. attorney general to establish a federal commission to oversee the development of a marijuana regulatory framework modeled after the alcohol industry while also respecting the MJ laws in each state.

The commission would include members from 16 federal departments and agencies as well as other experts and stakeholders.

The PREPARE Act reflects a creative, bipartisan approach to kick-start the development of a federal marijuana regulatory framework.

“As we contemplate federal legalization, it is critical that we have input from the very agencies that will be involved in regulating our industry,” Saphira Galoob, executive director of the Washington DC-based National Cannabis Roundtable, said in a statement supporting the measure.

“The PREPARE Act provides a pathway for federal agencies to set their expectations for cannabis businesses, so we are not left wondering what the impact policy changes will have on businesses and individual consumers.”

It’s unclear, however, how much traction the bill can get during this legislative cycle, as midterm elections loom in November and other priorities such as rising inflation and the war in Ukraine are at center stage.

The PREPARE Act, according to a news release, also would:

  • Build on previous efforts to remedy the consequences from the federal government’s wide-ranging crackdown on marijuana, particularly those suffered by minority, low-income, and veteran communities.
  • Help grant medical professionals access to marijuana research.
  • Provide economic opportunity to individuals and small businesses by providing access to the financial sector.
  • Develop protections for the hemp industry.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently for the second time in its history passed a comprehensive reform measure called the MORE Act, but the bill’s prospects in the Senate appear dim.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated he will introduce his comprehensive marijuana bill called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act soon, but it isn’t expected to be able to gather enough support to pass.

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The best bet is incremental progress, experts said Thursday at a cannabis reform webinar hosted by New York-based Viridian Capital Advisors.

Even cannabis banking reform looks like a long shot for this year, although House Democrats are hoping to push it through as part of an American competitiveness bill that still needs to be hashed out by a congressional conference committee.

Jeff Smith can be reached at jeff.smith@mjbizdaily.com.