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How New Federal Bills Could Protect CA Weed Businesses and Consumers

Posted in Drug FAQ'S on July 6, 2018

Both medical and recreational marijuana is legal in California, but it remains illegal at a federal level. However, federal lawmakers are in the midst of creating proposals that could ease the conflict between federal and local laws. These proposals, if they pass, could protect both cannabis business owners and consumers throughout the state.

Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states, and recreational marijuana use is currently legal in 8. State law gives Californians the right to smoke marijuana recreationally and lawfully possess up to a certain amount on their person. On the other hand, Californians still face federal prosecution for marijuana possession and can even face a denial of benefits, such as those for subsidized housing.

Businesses who sell marijuana in California face similar hurdles. For example, a person who owns a cannabis business can still legally face federal raids and have trouble accessing basic tax deductions or even banking services. Lastly, public health researchers have a hard time assessing the effects of marijuana laws because it remains federally illegal.

Marijuana Reform on the Horizon?

Oregon Democrats Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Sen. Ron Wyden want to change all that with a proposed package of bills, called the “Path To Marijuana Reform.” They introduced the bill recently to both the House and the Senate at the federal level. The proposed set of reforms has several goals:

  • To regulate marijuana like alcohol
  • To remove marijuana from the national registry of controlled substances, which would provide valuable protections to both consumers of marijuana and people who work in the industry.
  • To spur growth of the emerging sector, which has struggled under the threat of Attorney General Jeff Session’s leadership. Sessions is widely-known as a staunch opponent of the legalization of marijuana.
  • Creation of a federal tax on marijuana that would start at 10% and continue to 25% over a period of subsequent years.
  • Establishment of federal permit guidelines for anyone who wants to operate a cannabis business
  • More stringent rules on labeling and advertising

Proponents of the bill state that reforming federal law represents a much-needed step in bridging the gap between federal statutes and state law and public opinion. States like California realize the benefit of regulating the drug, and advocates hope that echoing this trend on a federal level will lead to benefits for consumers, businesses, and the public at large.

How Might the Bill Help?

The proposed reform could have several advantages, both to those who use marijuana recreationally and those who sell it. The following are just a few of the benefits:

  • People who use marijuana recreationally will not have to worry about the possibility of federal prosecution, which is small but very real.
  • Businesses can operate without the threat of federal raids.
  • Public health researchers will be free to research the effects of marijuana on operating a vehicle and long-term health, which will help inform public policy.
  • Marijuana will face taxing regulations similar to cigarettes, leading to increased revenue that the government can use to repair infrastructure and tend to other needs.
  • Federal laws will regulate the practice of advertising, which presents a problem, particularly when businesses market cannabis to young or vulnerable populations.
  • Increased federal regulation will help ensure a better quality product with labeling rules.

Remember that the proposed set of laws is still in its infancy. Before becoming law, it must get approval from both the House and the Senate, and the President will have to issue the final approval of the measure. The laws could have significant benefits for both California consumers and retailers of cannabis if the measure passes – but its future is uncertain.