Lawmakers in the House of Representatives will hold a hearing next week to discuss marijuana reform issues at the federal and state levels. This critical meeting is set to have bipartisan support and participation.
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Is Marijuana Still Federally Illegal?
Yes. Marijuana was listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government in 1970, categorized as highly addictive and dangerous based on little factual evidence nor backed by medical reviews under the Controlled Substances Act. For reference, it is classified with drugs such as heroin.
Despite still being listed as a Schedule I drug under federal law, marijuana is still used by millions of people for medical purposes in the United States.
THC and CBD
Any cannabis products with over 0.3 percent THC are still illegal under federal law, although you can find THC in dispensaries within states that have legalized medical or recreational weed. CBD products with no more than 0.3 percent THC are federally legal, along with hemp.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of prescription-strength CBD in the form of the drug Epidiolex associated with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome. The drug can be used in patients two years of age and older. Epidolex is the first FDA-approved drug derived from marijuana.
What Will be Covered in the Congressional Hearing?
The House’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee posted a notice of the meeting on Tuesday, with the title “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level.” The hearing is set to take place on Tuesday, November 15.
It’s unclear whether the hearing will focus on specific federal marijuana reform legislation. However, many representatives have marijuana reform ideas they plan to bring, so there will be no shortage of material for discussion.
The House passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act earlier this year in April, meaning there is potential for significant change in a positive direction regarding marijuana reform. In September, another House action on marijuana reform came when the Judiciary Committee approved bipartisan criminal justice reform bills. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been working to finalize a Republican-supported marijuana legislation package. The SAFE Plus bill is expected to include cannabis industry banking regulations and expungement procedures.
President Biden’s Announcement
President Biden announced last month that he is taking several steps toward changing federal marijuana laws and providing relief to drug war victims and their families. This unexpected announcement came approximately one month ahead of the mid-term election on Tuesday.
The panel may also discuss recent actions by President Joe Biden to issue pardons for people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses and direct an administrative review of cannabis scheduling under federal law.
Bipartisan Support for Marijuana Legalization
Pew Research Center reported last year that 72 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans support medical and recreational cannabis legalization. Republicans in all age groups favored legalizing medical marijuana use. Out of Republicans over 65 years old, over ninety percent think it should be legalized for medicinal benefits.
Now that Missouri and Maryland have approved recreational marijuana in the midterms, there will be twenty-one states where adult use is legal at a state level. Thirty-seven states (plus D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have approved medical cannabis programs. Many states even allow the home cultivation of up to six plants per resident.
Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently proposed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to decriminalize weed federally and allow states to create marijuana laws without retribution from Washington, D.C.
Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) has been in the works for over a year. Schumer and Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey proposed a discussion draft in early 2021. While it may not pass through the Senate, the legislation will mold the conversation around cannabis legalization in the future and may influence the congressional hearing next week.
Will the Outcome of the Marijuana Hearing Affect the Timing of Harvesting Marijuana?
Mid-term Election Highlights
Missouri and Maryland voters approved marijuana legalization on the ballots yesterday. While Maryland was expected to approve the referendum, the Missouri ballot measure’s popularity among voters was even more of a pleasant surprise.
Nevertheless, both states are seen as victories among marijuana advocates fighting tirelessly for decriminalization and legalization across the country. Maryland and Missouri now join the growing list of nineteen other states plus D.C., where the recreational cannabis industry is legally regulated for adult use and purchase.
Question 4 was a ballot initiative in Maryland to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana. The ballot question showed the following, “Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland?”
State lawmakers have approved HB 837, setting regulations in place now that the ballot measure has passed. The House Bill also defines possession limits and sets forth a review and expungement process for past criminal records. Maryland will potentially see dispensaries opening in mid to late 2023.
Legal Missouri 2022 sponsored Amendment 3, a ballot initiative allowing adults 21 and older to possess legally, purchase, and privately grow cannabis. The ballot measure also ensures the expungement of non-violent cannabis-related offenses and adds a six percent tax on cannabis sales to help fund court costs and legal fees for those needing it. Missouri could possibly see recreational sales begin in early 2023.
Five states voted on legalizing recreational marijuana, and two succeeded during the mid-term elections this week. Following those victories and losses, Congress is set to meet on November 15 to discuss the future of marijuana in the United States. Will they agree it’s time to move forward with decriminalization, at the very least? Check back next week to learn more about what was discussed and what that means for cannabis enthusiasts nationwide.