The Green Elephant in the Room: Republican lawmakers introduce bill to end cannabis prohibition, opening new route to legalization

The Green Elephant in the Room: Republican lawmakers introduce bill to end cannabis prohibition, opening new route to legalization

New bill from the Republican representatives, shows a shift in cannabis conversation

VicesMay 13, 2021 By Will Brendza

Currently, there are a number of cannabis legalization bills working their way through Congress: the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has been approved in the House for the second time in as many years, and the Marijuana Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act has passed in the Senate and awaits House approval. Both stand within a spitting distance from the president’s desk.  

The only thing standing in their way, at this point, are Republicans. Most of these cannabis bills have a lot of Democratic support behind them, but lack the necessary Republican backers to push past The Hill and onto the White House.

However, two Republican senators just introduced a brand-new cannabis legalization bill into the mix. And considering it’s coming from the Red side of the aisle, it might have a clearer path to being voted through — even though it’s far from perfect.

Reps. David Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced the Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act on May 12th. Broadly: it aims to decriminalize cannabis.

Specifically: it would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, allow banks to work with cannabis companies without penalty, provide protections for studies on medical cannabis, and it would allow all military veterans to use, possess and transport certain amounts of medical cannabis.

However, notably (and perhaps predictably), this bill does not include any social justice provisions to repair past injustices and harms from America’s failed War on Drugs. No expungement. And no social equity programs.  

Se la vie. One step at a time, Republicans.

“With more than 40 states taking action on this issue, it’s past time for Congress to recognize that continued cannabis prohibition is neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate,” Joyce, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus (CCC), said in a press release.

Both Young and Joyce are calling upon their colleagues on both side of the aisle, to support this bill. Which, is far from perfect, or even ideal, as far as cannabis legalization legislation goes. But it’s a sign that these lawmakers are starting to come around, if nothing else. The conversation is shifting from “Should we legalize cannabis?” to “How should we legalize cannabis?”

Which means, now, it’s only a matter of time before the Federal prohibition of cannabis comes to an official end. And that will be a reason to celebrate, no matter whether it’s a Republican bill that ends it, or a Democratic one.