Stars Are Aligned for Cannabis Legalization at Both State & Federal Levels

Evidence suggests that almost a century of marijuana prohibition faces an event horizon.

Posted In: News, , National,   From Issue 861   By: Greg Schmid

03rd May, 2018     0

On April 26, the “initiated legislation” petition proposal to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults in Michigan, similar to legal beer, wine, and liquor, was approved by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers by a unanimous 4-0 vote.

Now the issue has been submitted to the state legislature for the constitutionally required 40-day period, during which the legislature may enact the proposed law “as is” or reject it. If rejected the proposed law is placed on the November ballot for voter approval. If enacted by the legislature it will not go on the ballot at all. The legislature also has the power to place an alternate proposal on the ballot; if both are approved the proposal with the most votes would take. 

If the measure is placed on the ballot, and not enacted by the legislature, and if, as polling suggests, it is approved by the voters in November, then the legislature will need then a ¾ vote to later amend or repeal the law. If enacted now, without a vote, the legislature could amend or repeal the law with a simple majority vote. However, the House Speaker Tom Leonard has said he has no plan push the legislature to enact the measure.

Times are changing fast. The political strategists for both parties have the data to show cannabis is a winning issue for candidates.  With crucial midterms ahead, neither party wants to let the other party to  take credit for this popular movement. Gone is the restraint that kept politicians away from sensible drug law reform for the past two generations. Time and demographics have caught up with the old-guard drug warriors.

Like the end of the prohibition era in 1933, the federal ban on cannabis needs to be lifted before cannabis companies can mature into mainstream business operations. Federal laws against marijuana have tended to cripple cannabis companies with a punitive net tax exceeding 70% (due to IRS Rule 280E) and have tended to exclude them from the banking and credit card services that other businesses enjoy. Federal laws make every person involved subject to federal forfeiture laws for confiscating private assets, even if the company is legal under state law.

Congressional politicians seem ready to ride the wave of voter sentiment and take a more positive attitude towards cannabis. So many real people have clamored for tolerant marijuana laws for so long that our leaders have finally caught wind. In these days of populism, it is a risky campaign strategy to cling to outdated marijuana prohibition laws. Politicians have even developed a talking-point for their flip-flop on the issue; Chuck Schumer recently said: "My thinking — as well as the general population's views — on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there's no better time than the present to get this done. It's simply the right thing to do."

Michigan is poised to take advantage of federal law changes when they come, and they may change quickly. The stigma of cannabis seems to be gone – and gone for good. Almost as many people use cannabis as drink beer, and the cannabis market may get to be as big to be as the beer, wine, & liquor market, and this means economic opportunity for our state if legislators stay ahead of the game. Fully legal marijuana in Colorado brought in $247 million in tax revenue for last year.

As evidence of the changing atmosphere in DC, and the prospect of a quick shift in federal law, consider the following recent conduct of congressional leadership and executive agencies:

1. Chuck Schumer announced that he would introduce a bill to de-schedule marijuana entirely.

2. Senator Cory Gardner from Colorado, who boycotted the president’s appointees when Trump’s AG Sessions tried to turn the clock back and threatened to prosecute state-legal pot stores, got a promise from Trump to live and let live with marijuana enforcement in exchange for Gardner supporting Trump’s Department of Justice nominees.

3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the federal list of controlled substances; to remove the federal hurdles in place and give states the opportunity to seize the full potential of hemp industrial production.

4. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is joining with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on a bill that could finally reconcile the current discrepancy between federal and state cannabis laws. Says Gardner, “Basically, this is a states’ rights bill. This is a federalism bill that says if a state like Colorado decides to move forward on medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, CBDs [cannabidiol, which is a medical cannabis compound that doesn’t make one “stoned”], hemp, that that activity is going to be lawfully, legally carried out. It opts the state out of the marijuana provisions of deferral law, of Schedule 1. While this doesn’t change Schedule 1 at all, it simply says if the state wants to do this, it no longer violates the law. So, if Oklahoma wishes to maintain a prohibition on marijuana, then it would be illegal under state and local law in Oklahoma. But as far as Colorado goes, there would no longer be an illegal activity.”

5. The FDA has set the stage for a debate on re-scheduling of marijuana for an upcoming session of the World Health Organization specially convened to reconsider cannabis laws, and

6. both chambers of Congress passed “right to try” bills that might have accidentally legalized medical marijuana for terminally ill patients.

7. Rohrabacher-Blumenauer protections against federal spending to prosecutor state-legal companies were added to the 2018 omnibus spending bill by Pat Leahy of Vermont.

8. American Society for Addiction Medicine, which is not an advocate for legalization, acknowledges that opioid overdose death rates are 25 percent lower in states with legal medical marijuana.

As this great debate moves forward, those who wish to get involved can join Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol @ www.regulatemi.org, or contact the state NORML of Michigan chapter at www.minorml.org. Those who oppose legalization may contact www.healthyandproductivemi.org.

 

 

 

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