Federal Marijuana Legalization
With an increasing number of states legalizing marijuana, we explore whether legalization at the federal level might be coming soon.
According to businessinsider.com, Federal marijuana legalization may soon be a reality, as Representative Nancy Mace has introduced a bill that would both decriminalize marijuana and regulate it in the same way alcohol is regulated. Currently, there are only two states (Nebraska and Idaho) that lack some form of legalization of medical marijuana use. It should be noted, however, that some of those medical marijuana states have very restrictive use laws. On the recreational front, marijuana is legal in 19 states plus Washington, D.C. While proponents of federal marijuana legalization argue it is much less dangerous than alcohol, has therapeutic benefits, and is a moneymaker for states, opponents stubbornly maintain marijuana poses a public health and safety risk. History shows that marijuana laws have disproportionately affected minority communities and have contributed to mass incarceration. States that have legalized marijuana have sought provisions that would expunge or vacate prior low-level marijuana convictions. Mace says her bill supports those with serious illnesses, farmers businesses, veterans, and even law enforcement while furthering criminal justice reform. The bill would decriminalize marijuana while paving a way for interstate and international commerce. A recent poll found that 62 percent of Americans support full federal marijuana legalization, while only 23 percent oppose such a measure (the remaining 15 percent are on the fence).
What Would Federal Marijuana Legalization Look Like?The federal legalization of marijuana would reduce regulatory obligations of marijuana companies, allowing them to take out loans, hold bank accounts, and receive tax deductions. Reuters reports that the state-legal cannabis market will reach more than $40 billion in the U.S. by 2026—that’s without Federal legalization. Although Federal law enforcement has largely turned a blind eye to marijuana production and use in legal marijuana states, Federal authorities do step in from time to time to unleash a fury of federal penalties against those they feel have “crossed the line.” Federal marijuana legislation does not seem to be a priority for the Biden administration, although there are continuing efforts in the house and senate to bring Federal marijuana laws in line with current state laws. Two recent bills introduced into congress are considered essential to ending the Federal prohibition of marijuana:
- The MORE Act would expunge marijuana convictions and remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act
- A similar Senate bill, the Cannabis Administration Opportunity Act, would also decriminalize and de-schedule marijuana federally.
Do Cannabis CEOs Expect Federal Marijuana Legalization in 2022?
Business Insider asked 8 CEOS of marijuana companies whether they expect to see federal marijuana legalization in 2022. Almost unanimously, these CEOs said they won’t be holding their breath regarding marijuana legalization in 2022 but were “hopeful.” Many expect a much narrower marijuana-related banking bill to pave the way for full-scale legalization and decriminalization. CEO of Green Thumb Industries, Ben Kovler, expects an increase in consumer consumption, as well as more “branded cannabis products across more states.” Kovler predicts no federal marijuana legislation will take place until 2023.
Curaleaf CEO, Joseph Bayern agrees that despite the introduction of marijuana legislation, the passage of a narrower bill like the SAFE Banking Act that allows banks to work with marijuana companies is more likely. CEO George Archos, of Verano Holdings, expects to see Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio legalize recreational marijuana and for the SAFE Banking Act to pass—but doubts we’ll see federal marijuana legalization any time soon.