Let Cannabis Legalization Be Done State-By-State with No Federal Legalization? – Republican Plot Twist for the Weed Industry

September 27, 2023 · Cannabis.net

Republican senators, including the lead GOP sponsor of a bipartisan marijuana banking bill, are gearing up to introduce new legislation designed to thwart any federal legalization of marijuana by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) without explicit approval from Congress.

Senators Leading the Charge

The fight against potential federal marijuana legalization without congressional permission is being led by Senators Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming (R-WY) and Steve Daines of Montana (R-MT). Regarding cannabis policy, Senator Lummis has continuously defended states’ rights, firmly believing that state-by-state decisions on cannabis legalization should prevail over federal directives. She is committed to preserving state autonomy in cannabis policy, evidenced by her consistent opposition to federal legalization.

Senator Steve Daines, representing Montana, has been a prominent figure in advocating for cannabis banking reform. He plays a central role in the upcoming legislation and sponsors the SAFER Act, which addresses the pressing issue of banking access for state-licensed cannabis businesses. Daines’s dual involvement highlights his dedication to creating a safer and more legitimate financial environment for the cannabis industry while navigating the complexities of federal cannabis policy.

Senators Lummis and Daines represent a growing faction of Republicans who support states’ rights and resist excessive federal intervention in cannabis matters. Their leadership in this legislative endeavor is poised to shape the trajectory of marijuana policy in the United States, focusing on preserving states’ authority to determine their cannabis laws.

The Legislative Landscape and Implications

14 House and Senate Republicans have urged the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to oppose the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendation that marijuana be rescheduled. Senators Daines and Lummis were noticeably absent from the letter’s list of signatories.

Whether restrictions on reclassifying marijuana within the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) or a specific mention of the de-scheduling of marijuana from the CSA are included in this upcoming legislation, as well as how it will prohibit the FDA from potentially legalizing marijuana, are all unknowns. In most cases, “legalization” refers to excluding marijuana from the CSA.

While the FDA has endorsed a cannabis-derived CBD medication and a synthetic THC drug, it generally refrains from endorsing holistic or plant-based remedies. If the HHS suggested rescheduling marijuana, it would remain federally prohibited, except for medical use with a doctor’s prescription.

Efforts to obtain further details regarding this impending bill were made, with a spokesperson for Senator Daines directing inquiries to Senator Lummis’s office. However, immediate responses from the latter’s representatives were unavailable.

This announcement was appended to the statements about the SAFER Banking Act introduced on Wednesday. Senator Daines emphasised provisions within the SAFER Banking Act that he helped secure during bipartisan negotiations, designed to shield all legal enterprises from what he perceives as the “woke agenda” of the left.

While the primary focus of the SAFER Banking Act revolves around granting state-licensed cannabis businesses access to conventional financial services, Senators Daines and Lummis highlighted aspects of the legislation intended to prevent federal regulators from taking discriminatory enforcement actions against other sectors, such as the firearms industry.

Senator Lummis contended that Wyoming energy companies frequently face threats from “woke” Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) initiatives, potentially jeopardising their access to banking services and loans. The SAFER Banking Act prevents federal bank regulators from compelling banks or credit unions to terminate accounts based on reputation risk, safeguarding energy firms and gun manufacturers from left-wing challenges to their operations.

Senator Daines’s focus on the bill’s banking regulations provisions and his sponsorship of FDA and marijuana legalization legalization  could suggest an attempt to distance himself from the broader marijuana reform movement, notwithstanding his state’s 2020 ballot approval of adult-use legalization.

The SAFER Banking Act is expected to have strong bipartisan support in committee and on the floor, according to individuals like Sherrod Brown, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and Chuck Schumer, the majority leader of the Senate (both Democrats). When the legislation reaches the Senate floor, Schumer plans to attach amendments to enable state-level cannabis expungements and support firearms rights for medicinal cannabis patients; Senator Daines has previously expressed openness to this strategy.

On the House side, a well-known Democrat proposed a plan to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana on a federal level. The bill also included provisions for expunging earlier convictions for cannabis usage.

The Stance of the FDA and Challenges Ahead

Historical FDA Caution: Over the years, the FDA has maintained a cautious stance regarding cannabis, especially its natural, plant-based form. While the agency has approved specific cannabis-derived medicines, it has hesitated to endorse broader cannabis legalization or rescheduling. Instead, the FDA’s primary focus has been on ensuring the safety and efficacy of medical treatments, resulting in a reluctance to embrace holistic or plant-based remedies like marijuana.

Federal Prohibition and HHS Advice: The problem has become more complicated due to the recent HHS (Health and Human Services) suggestion to reschedule marijuana. Acceptance of this recommendation could result in modifications to the Controlled Substances Act’s (CSA) federal classification of marijuana. To be clear, marijuana will likely continue to be federally illegal for recreational use even if it is rescheduled, except for medical uses that a doctor has approved.

Challenges and Uncertainties: The impending legislation championed by Senators Lummis and Daines faces numerous challenges and unresolved issues. Key questions remain, including whether the bill will specifically address rescheduling or de-scheduling marijuana within the CSA and how it intends to prevent the FDA from pursuing marijuana legalization without Congress’s explicit approval. The term “legalization” typically implies removing marijuana from the CSA, a significant step toward federal acceptance. The lack of detailed information about the bill’s mechanics leaves critical aspects, such as preserving states’ rights in shaping cannabis laws, uncertain. In this intricate landscape, the FDA’s regulatory stance and adaptability to evolving perceptions of marijuana will play a pivotal role. While Senators Lummis and Daines advocate for legislative measures to safeguard state autonomy, scrutiny of the FDA’s approach to marijuana will continue among stakeholders in the cannabis industry and beyond. As the legislative process unfolds, the complexities and challenges of federal cannabis policy reform will come to the forefront, ultimately shaping the future of marijuana legalization in the United States.

Bottom Line

As Senators Lummis and Daines lead the charge against potential federal marijuana legalization without congressional approval, the role of the FDA looms large in this unfolding legislative battle. While historical caution from the FDA persists, recent recommendations from the HHS add complexity to the cannabis landscape.

This legislative effort faces various difficulties, including uncertainties about the bill’s details and how it will protect states’ rights. As the FDA’s regulatory stance continues to be a significant component, the future of marijuana legalization in the United States will be formed by a complicated interplay of federal and state authorities and changing attitudes toward cannabis. The road ahead promises to be both complicated and transformational, with big changes in federal cannabis legislation possible. (Full Story)

In categories:Legalization Politics
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