Exploring the New Federal Cannabis Laws: What Do They Mean?

The House of Representatives recently passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act recently by a vote of 220 yea votes to 204 nay votes. As it heads to the Senate, the MORE Act ends federal criminal penalties for those growing, possessing or distributing cannabis and expunges nonviolent cannabis convictions. It also puts a tax on cannabis to aimed at helping communities negatively affected by decades of police scrutiny on nonviolent crimes related to marijuana use and trafficking. The tax would pay for job training programs, legal aid and youth mentoring. The MORE Act also allows states to regulate marijuana.

Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbus have made medical and recreational cannabis legal. The MORE Act  would end the federal cannabis ban and leave legalization up the the individual states. Legal marijuana generated $25 billion in sales in 2021, which was an increase of 43 percent increase over 2020, and it is expected to be $65 billion in 2030

Democratic support for legalization was 72 percent, with 8 percent saying marijuana should not be legal at all. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to decriminalize cannabis use and expunge prior convictions for non-violent crimes related to marijuana. He said “No one should be in jail because of cannabis use. However, the President cannot repeal federal marijuana laws on his own, but he can grant amnesty people with non-violent convictions related to cannabis.

As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, state lawmakers want to reconcile federal law with state regulations. Recreational marijuana is legal in 40 percent of states. The American people clearly support legalized marijuana and feel marijuana prohibition is a costly relic of the past. Using law enforcement to arrest marijuana smoker when violent crime is on the rise nationwide is not working for the American public and for many states who have legalized have seen tax revenue from marijuana turn into vital revenue source for their states. The top five 2020 cannabis tax revenue states are:

  • California $474,100,000
  • Colorado $307,278,327
  • Oregon $133,150,349
  • Washington $285,674,135
  • Nevada $105,180,947

As states that legalized cannabis gain more and more revenue, other states who have not yet legalized may frame the potential tax revenue from legalization as an opportunity they simply cannot pass up. Many states use the revenue to support their educational systems, support social equity programs, and other popular programs. Since these taxes are essentially paid voluntarily by cannabis users and do not affect nonusers, it almost seems like free money to states like California and Colorado.

But politicians who do not support cannabis legalization will use tax revenue as an argument that illegal growers will undercut the process in their states so they can offer illegal marijuana at a reduced process, making it more attractive to consumers. These politicians insist the illegal market is owned and run by organized crime.

Banking is a Big Issue

For states who legalized cannabis, one of the biggest problems is banking. Because federal regulators can legally go after businesses that generate revenue from marijuana, many of them have had to rely on cash. This can be dangerous, creating an incentive for violent crime. But the proposed SAFE Banking Act seeks to serve banks and financial institutions who have customers that are cannabis-related businesses within their state’s regulatory frameworks. The SAFE Banking Act explicitly prohibits federal regulators from penalizing banks who serve legitimate businesses, which includes cannabis-related businesses that operate in states with legal cannabis laws. The banks and businesses will be able to operate with safer and better regulated financial practices rather than relying on cash.

The SAFE Banking Act has received bipartisan support each time it has been presented and finally passed the House in April 2021 by a vote of 321 to 101, getting yes votes from 106 Republicans. The Act would make a number of changes to banking regulations that guide how banks across the US choose to serve legitimate cannabis businesses in states that have legalized and have medical marijuana laws. According to the Banking Act’s co-sponsor Representative Perlmutter, the Act permits cannabis businesses to access financial services like a checking account and makes it easier for these businesses to accept alternative forms of payment like credit and debit cards. The Act tackles the issue of one of the fastest-growing industries in the country that is widely known to be operating with cash. Representative Perlmutter, a Democrat from Colorado, feels confident the Act will pass the Senate soon.

States That Might Legalize Marijuana in 2022

 

There are several states that seem likely to legalize cannabis this year, including:

Delaware – The state has had a popular medical marijuana program for a while now, and it was the state’s intent to move into adult-use legalized recreational program off that. Delaware’s House Health and Human Development committee approved a bill in early January that would make recreational marijuana legal for adults over 21. The state is accustomed to the legal weed business in the medical community and the bill will soon be headed to a vote. While the current governor has not been enthusiastic about making cannabis legal, there is not indicated he will veto it if it passes.

Maryland – The state has a thriving medical program and they have made possession of ten grams of cannabis punishable by a traffic ticket. Fully two-thirds of the public support legalization in Maryland and the politicians are paying attention. Legislators are hoping  to present a legalization bill by the end of the year.

Missouri – Several pro-legalization lobbying groups have been working hard to ensure recreational marijuana gets on the ballot sometime this year. Many of the proposed laws have  containment expungement stipulations for prior convictions. A recent news story that claimed one out of every ten new jobs in Missouri have been due to the states medical marijuana businesses has done a lot to focus the public’s attention on legalization.

Ohio – The Buckeye state has a booming marijuana industry already. Legislators are so supportive of legalization that even Republican legislators are introducing proposals to make recreation cannabis legal in the state.

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