The illegality of marijuana has created in America a black market worth billions of dollars a year, fueled by the same criminal elements that create illegal substances in other countries. If marijuana was simply legal in America, marijuana would be a legitimate business, taxed and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes, but it would also focus on producing that which most American consumers want: high-quality products.
When we started out looking at the different ways to legalize marijuana, the most obvious place to start is with the federal level. That’s because the federal government holds the most power when it comes to making new laws and to taking away rights. Whether you agree with the federal government or not, it is important to know what it would do if it did legalize marijuana.
In the United States, cannabis is only legal for medical or recreational use in 10 states and Washington, D.C. On August 1, 2018, a new law is set to go into effect in California, allowing the sale of adult-use cannabis. The Cannabis Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act will permit licensed businesses to grow, manufacture, and sell cannabis, as well as charge for its use, in the state. This law has begun raising concerns among some in California’s cannabis industry, who worry that the new law will lead to higher taxes and a significant shift in the industry.. Read more about federal legalization bill 2021 and let us know what you think.
Although cannabis is legal for medical or adult use in 36 states and 4 territories, at the federal level it is still classified as a Schedule I illegal drug. In response to this diverse policy environment, states have developed their own means of regulating cannabis, and the industry has become one of the most dynamic in the United States.
The discussion of legalization at the federal level is gaining momentum, leaving Americans eager to see what it might look like in its original form. On the one hand, the controversial status of cannabis in America complicates policy making for state and local governments and can often be too burdensome for patients and users. On the other hand, legalization at the federal level could disrupt existing national frameworks and leave local and tribal interests untouched.
Our nation’s capital has taken one of the most difficult paths to legalization. The regulated industry in Washington, D.C., is a microcosm of how cannabis policy is affected by the federal government’s involvement in legalization. When the District of Columbia passed an initiative to legalize cannabis for adults in 2014, Congress included language in its appropriations bill that effectively prohibited the District from creating its own legal cannabis market. Congress was able to do so because the District of Columbia, as a federal territory, is funded by the federal budget, which is controlled by Congress.
The District of Columbia’s relationship with the federal government brings an ambiguity to the cannabis framework that is not present in state programs. And President Biden recently tightened restrictions to prevent the legal sale of cannabis to adults. In practice, this means that D.C. cannot fully tax and regulate its voter-approved program. Instead, a loophole in federal policy forces them to operate in a complicated gift economy that leaves it up to consumers to decide what is safe to consume and which companies and brands are trustworthy.
Federal legalization may facilitate local oversight in Washington. It could also allow the states – and the District of Columbia – to adopt their own regulatory systems and give the District more support from Congress in the budget process. In total, the district estimates that it loses up to $20 million in revenue each year.
Federal legalization could clear up some confusion for Native American tribes that have legalized cannabis in states like California, North Carolina, South Dakota and Washington. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a Wilkinson memorandum calling for tribal cannabis businesses to be protected from federal prosecution, just as they are in the states. However, it is not a legally enforceable law and does not fully address how indigenous territories should participate in existing state structures.
In states like California, indigenous peoples are concerned that participating in a legal licensing program will amount to surrendering their sovereignty. And in South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux have legalized adult-use cannabis on their land and are in the process of drafting regulations as the state fights the repeal of its voter-approved adult-use cannabis legalization program.
Legalization also raises interest in how cannabis is transported between states and to other countries. The current state rules get more complicated once you leave the country. And the ban on interstate commerce means it’s illegal to transport cannabis products even between places where it’s legal.
In other words: Any place in the United States that must be reached by air or sea – such as Alaska, Hawaii, or even a ferry from Massachusetts to Martha’s Vineyard – exposes patients and consumers to lawsuits because these open spaces fall under federal jurisdiction. In 2019, Hawaii Governor David Ige even vetoed a bill that would have allowed patients to transport medical cannabis between the islands. The U.S.-Canada border is managed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has already made it clear that it is the country’s first line of defense in preventing the illegal importation of drugs, including marijuana.
Until the federal government takes a clear position on cannabis, a policy vacuum will continue to complicate states’ legalization programs. In the meantime, it will be interesting to follow the various interests and nuances that will have to be taken into account in determining what cannabis legalization will look like at the federal level.The cannabis industry is worth an estimated $10 billion in the U.S. alone. And, as more states are moving to legalize the drug, the industry is likely to continue to expand. In Colorado, which has legalized the recreational use of cannabis, marijuana businesses have already generated over $1.3 billion in sales for the state during the first year of legalization.. Read more about marijuana’s legalized federal 2021 and let us know what you think.
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