House bill

US House Bill passes to legalize cannabis but questions persist

In a vote of 220 to 204, the United States House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill that would legalize marijuana in the United States and decriminalize the manufacture, distribution and possession of a drug currently listed as Annex I substance.

the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Delisting Act would also create a process to overturn cannabis convictions, impose a tax on cannabis products and establish a trust fund to support communities affected by the decades-long war on drugs. The federal sales tax would gradually increase from 5 to 8%. Proceeds would go in part to community programs such as legal aid and expungement, youth mentoring and job training.

Historically, Latinos and black people have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs, with a higher likelihood of federal convictions and longer sentences than their white counterparts.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the legislation “one of the most significant criminal justice reform bills in recent history.”

Pelosi said the bill (also called the MORE Act) would serve “justice for those who are harmed by the brutal and unfair consequences of criminalization,” and give people the opportunity to participate in the industry and decriminalize the marijuana at the federal level “so that we do not repeat the grave mistakes of our past.

Now, a bigger challenge awaits us: the move to the US Senate.

Arizona’s five Democrats voted to pass the measure, while the four Republicans rejected it, reflecting the party line’s overall vote.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Arizona since 2010, and voters approved recreational pot via Proposition 207 in November 2020, with sales quickly beginning in January 2021. Proposition 207 also allowed people with cannabis-related offenses to clear their records. The Maricopa County Superior Court reported an average of 650 people per week filed delisting requests in August 2021, resulting in more than 3,600 delistings.

The Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office announced two weeks ago that it had filed more than 10,000 motions to strike out, which are expected to be approved.

Arizonans have spent an estimated $1.9 billion on medical and recreational marijuana since recreational sales began in the state. Nationwide, legal cannabis sales totaled $20 billion in 2020, according to the MORE Act, which predicted sales would reach $40.5 billion by 2025.

Raul Molina, co-founder and chief operating officer of Phoenix-area Mint Cannabis, said he doesn’t think federal legalization will affect the average cannabis user in Arizona, although it might make a difference. profound difference in the industry.

“There are probably about 15,000 people who are employed by industry in Arizona, and they’re struggling to rent, buy homes, and do all kinds of things because of industry’s inability to use appropriate banks,” he said.

Molina, which operates dispensaries in Tempe, Mesa and Phoenix, with two more on the way, is also looking forward to reduced interest rates after federal legalization. He said the industry currently relies on hard money loans, which are secured by assets with interest rates that can exceed 18%.

Interstate commerce is another interesting consideration. All but two states have some form of legalized marijuana, whether medical, adult recreational or, like Arizona, both.

Each state has its own cannabis program and cannot sell or move products across state lines, so federal legalization could bring some serious green for established brands like Curaleaf and Harvest House of Cannabis, both of which operate in Arizona and at least a handful of other states.

“How to position Arizona as an exporting state?” asked Demitri Downing, founder of the Marijuana Industry Trade Association in Arizona. Downing said industry in Arizona can take the knowledge it has gleaned and spread it across the country, but he has no idea what the trade might look like.

“Will cannabis cross borders and in what form, at what potency? he asked, noting that consumers in Arizona are asking for brands from states like California and New York.

Although Downing argues for industry and freedom of choice over prohibition (like 60% of Americans who favor medical and recreational legalization, according to Pew Research Center), he is not optimistic that the measure will pass the Senate.

“It would take a proactive administration to legalize it and I don’t see Joe Biden’s administration having the courage or the political ability to do something so dramatic,” Downing said.

Democratic Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon are working on their own proposal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. It’s an alternative to trying to push the House bill through the Senate, where the measure still faces an uphill battle. All Democrats and 10 Republicans are expected to vote in favor to advance the bill to a final vote.

While Molina hopes the measure will pass, he is not holding his breath.

“In the cannabis industry, we’ve learned to accept things as they happen,” he said.