Story at a glance
- Republican House Rep. Nancy Mace introduced the States Reform Act on Monday.
- It aims to legalize marijuana at the federal level, including releasing and expunging non-violent offenses for approximately 2,600 people in federal custody.
- States would not be required to change their current marijuana laws.
A House Republican from South Carolina introduced a bill that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and hopes to garner enough bipartisan support to push the bill to become law.
Currently 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana while 36 states allow for the medical use of cannabis products. Now, Republican House Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina is trying to end the criminalization of marijuana at the federal level.
Mace introduced the legislation on Monday, called the States Reform Act. It aims to remove cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, regulate cannabis like alcohol, institute a 3 percent federal excise tax on cannabis products and release and expunge those convicted of nonviolent, cannabis-only related offenses.
Mace estimated that 2,600 people would be released at the federal level from nonviolent cannabis offenses, while states would be left to determine if they would also allow for similar releases and expungements.
States Reform Act would also make cannabis illegal for anyone under the age of 21, with medical exemptions allowed.
Speaking at a press conference introducing her new bill, Mace said, “This legislation, I believe, has something good for everyone, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”
Mace also explained that a low excise tax was necessary to prevent an illicit market for cannabis products, drawing an example to the state of California,, which despite legalizing recreational use of marijuana, has still seen significant growth in its underground drug market.
However, the bill would allow for states to determine what level of cannabis reform or legalization they want to regulate, or not. No state or local government would be forced to make changes to their current cannabis policies.
Mace emphasized that her bill encompassed a compromise that could appease Democrats and Republicans.
However, according to NBC News, Drew Kissick, chair of South Carolina GOP, was not a fan of Mace’s legislation. “Unequivocally, the South Carolina Republican Party is against any effort to legalize, decriminalize the use of controlled substances, and that includes this bill. Since this will have widespread negative impacts, from rising crime, violence, and mental health issues in children, I think it’s a safe bet to say most Republicans will be against it too.”
Democrats previously tried to pass federal marijuana legislation last year, titled the MORE Act. The bill aimed to decriminalize marijuana but did not gain enough votes to pass. The bill died in the Senate.
Despite the conflicting views on Capitol Hill on marijuana legalization, a Gallup poll from this month found that 68 percent of Americans support legalizing it. Since 2013, Gallup has seen a sharp increase in public support for marijuana legalization in all major subgroups by gender, age, income and education.
However, Gallup noted substantive differences by political party. They found 83 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents supported marijuana legalization while only 50 percent of Republicans supported it.
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA