A draft bill unveiled Monday by U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace would eliminate federal prohibitions on cannabis, but stops short of fully legalizing marijuana, instead letting state leaders set rules on their own.
The States Reform Act, unveiled at a windy Capitol Hill press conference, is one of the first mainstream Republican attempts to regulate marijuana at the federal level. And while its provisions appear more conservative than proposals already introduced by Democrats, all the bills come as attitudes continue to swing dramatically away from hardline anti-drug campaigns supporting strict control on marijuana.
Widespread support for decriminalization
South Carolina and 46 other states allow for some form of legal cannabis consumption. S.C. allows the sale of CBD products, while other states have carved out medical marijuana exemptions and others permit full recreational consumption by adults. But despite the loosening of laws by state legislators, marijuana remains a federally prohibited drug.
Public opinion polling shows bipartisan support for at least some legalization of marijuana. An April poll by Pew Research Center showed 60% of U.S. adults said marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, with another 31% supporting medical use only.
Former Congressman Joe Cunningham and Democratic state Sen. Mia McLeod have both made marijuana reform part of their campaigns for governor.
Not everyone’s on board
South Carolina Republican Party leaders appear to be in that less-than-10% of Americans who support current marijuana laws.
While Mace said a half-dozen Republicans would join her in supporting the States Reform Act, rank-and-file home-state Republicans aren’t too sure. In a press release sent 10 minutes after Mace’s press conference adjourned, S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said, “Unequivocally, the South Carolina Republican Party is against any effort to legalize, decriminalize the use of controlled substances, and that includes this bill.”
(The rebuke from McKissick comes days after former President Donald Trump urged conservatives to challenge Mace in her Republican primary coming up next summer.)
The Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, has thrown its support behind Mace’s proposal.
What’s in the bill?
Mace’s bill was circulated Monday to reporters in draft form. Here are three of the main points to know:
- It would establish a 3% federal tax on marijuana sales. Revenues would be set aside for law enforcement training, Small Business Administration funding and veterans mental health initiatives. Mace’s 3% proposal is substantially less than the leading proposals from Democrats, which would set marijuana sales taxes at at least 10% and up to 25%.
- It would “deschedule” cannabis from federal regulations. Changes to marijuana’s status as s Schedule I drug for federal regulatory purposes is one of the major hurdles holding marijuana businesses from producing and selling products nationwide. Scheduling can also affect banking eligibility for businesses that buy or sell marijuana, even in states where it is legal. Democratic efforts to reform marijuana laws also include provisions to deschedule.
- States would still be required to legislate legalization. The bill would not require any states to change cannabis policies, according to Mace’s office.