In a first-ever congressional hearing on marijuana law reform, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security convened July 10 to debate altering federal law around cannabis, CNBC reports.
The consensus is that major cannabis reform is needed but disagreement still remains over what legislation should look like and the best strategy to advance it.
“Marijuana decriminalization may be one of the very few issues upon which bipartisan agreement can still be reached in this session,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
The meeting marks a significant development in the marijuana reform movement. Lawmakers went on the assumption that reforming federal marijuana laws is a given and used the hearing to discuss regulation.
“There is a growing consensus in this country that current marijuana laws are not appropriate and we must consider reform,” said Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. “Today’s hearing is a first step in that process.”
Proposals introduced this session ranged from legislation allowing states to set their own policies to bills that would fully deschedule cannabis and include social equity provisions.
The spread of legal cannabis has major payments problems because federal law considers the drug illegal. As a result, banks, credit unions and payment card networks are hesitant to participate.
“It is an unmitigated fact that the state of cannabis policy today is best described as a tale of two Americas,” said Malik Burnett, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health physician, who provided written testimony at the hearing.
Burnett also serves as COO of a multistate cannabis business and was the former Washington, D.C. policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs.
The STATES Act, among the most popular cannabis bills, would amend the Controlled Substances Act and exempts state-approved marijuana activity from federal enforcement.
Proponents say the legislation would eliminate federal concerns in states where marijuana is legal. Yet some say the bill does not go far enough because it does not address any racial or social concerns.
In the meantime, the legal retail cannabis industry keeps growing, with 11 states legalizing adult recreational use and a majority of Americans in support legalization.