Two US House Republicans pitch federal marijuana legalization bill

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Two Republican congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana federally in a manner similar to alcohol.

The bill, “Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act,” is sponsored by Reps. David Joyce of Ohio and Don Young of Alaska.

The two congressmen are co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus, along with Democrats Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Barbara Lee of California.

The measure would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, provide explicit banking protections for the cannabis industry, allow military veterans access to state-legal MJ programs and expand research.

Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project, praised the Republican-sponsored bill as a “promising step forward” in federal reform efforts.

But he said in a statement he hoped that future versions of the measure would include “robust social justice and equity provisions to address the devastation caused by prohibition and the failed war on drugs.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed such a social justice-focused descheduling bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, in December by a vote of 228 to 164.

However, only a handful of Republicans voted for that measure, and Joyce wasn’t one.

The new Congress, seated in January, must start from scratch in terms of passing marijuana legislation. The House took the first step in April by passing cannabis banking reform.

What many marijuana industry officials are waiting for is a long-promised comprehensive reform bill being developed by Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and fellow Democratic senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon.