Well, you’ve made it to the end of the week, so happy Friday everybody - and special Happy Hanukkah for those celebrating!
LEGALIZATION BILL REINTRODUCED
Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce reintroduced the STATES Act
The bill would protect states that have chosen to legalize cannabis from federal interference, legalize interstate commerce of cannabis, streamline tax policy, and outlines a federal regulatory framework.
The bill is cosponsored by a bipartisan group, including outgoing cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Rep. Brian Mast, and others.
Back up: This isn’t the first time Rep. Joyce, a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has tried to pass the STATES Act, though the new version has some important changes.
The bill was first introduced in 2019 in the House and Senate, by a group that included Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Like most other federal cannabis decriminalization or legalization bills, it never made it to a full floor vote in either chamber.
What’s in the bill? The STATES Act is a narrower federal legalization bill than those proposed by other lawmakers, including the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) introduced into Congress by New York Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
Still, the bill would go a long way toward normalizing cannabis policy in the US. First, it would remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act in states that have chosen to legalize it.
The new version of the bill would also allow cannabis to be transported across state lines, and remove the industry’s hated 280E tax from legal cannabis sales. It would also dictate that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be the chief regulatory body for cannabis, and would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the effects of legalization on traffic safety and issue a report, among other details.
What happens next: The political calculus for cannabis bills — especially one as far-reaching as the STATES Act — in the Republican-controlled House is tricky.
The Senate Banking Committee approved the SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would allow cannabis companies to access banks, in September. But it still hasn’t received a full floor vote.
What they’re saying: “The current federal approach to cannabis policy infringes on the rights of states to implement their own laws, stifling critical medical research, hurting legitimate businesses, and diverting vital law enforcement resources needed elsewhere,” Rep. Joyce said.
FLORIDA THE NEXT BATTLEGROUND?
Floridians may be voting on legalization on the 2024 ballot
Driving the news: Floridians may get a chance to vote on legalization in 2024.
The state’s Supreme Court heard arguments about the amendment last month, but it’s not guaranteed yet that it will be on the ballot.
The debate hinges on what Florida’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, says the wording of the amendment would give an unfair advantage to multistate cannabis firm Trulieve, which is based in Florida.
Attorneys for the state also questioned the clarity of the ballot language, and argued before the Supreme Court that it didn’t make explicitly clear that cannabis would still be illegal under federal law, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.
Trulieve is the biggest sponsor of Smart & Safe Florida, the group pushing for the amendment’s inclusion on the 2024 ballot.
Back up: Trulieve has come under fire for similar issues before. JT Burnette, Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers’ husband, was sentenced to three years in federal prison in 2021 on extortion and other charges.
He bragged to an undercover agent that he worked with a Florida state representative — a childhood friend — to insert “barriers to entry” for the Florida medical cannabis market that would benefit him and his family, though he walked back those claims on the witness stand.
What’s next? Even if the court allows the amendment to move forward, it’s far from a done deal.
Some advocates, including the head of Florida’s NORML chapter, say the amendment would benefit Trulieve and other cannabis companies already operating in Florida’s medical market at the expense of consumers.
And Gov. Ron DeSantis has campaigned in opposition to legalized cannabis on the 2024 trail, and has made numerous public statements against legalization. Moody, for her part, has declined to comment outside of arguments made in court.
But at the end of the day, it’s up to the voters — over 70% of voters support the amendment, according to a March poll from University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab.