While the federal government continues to postpone or otherwise delay any meaningful cannabis reform from happening on that very crucial level of government for several years now, certain members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are carrying on the fight for cannabis reform regardless. As the always divided and oftentimes theatrical antics of the Congress and Senate make national headlines, stories of repeated and consistent attempts to reform cannabis on the federal level are still happening, although not making nearly as many headlines and late night talk show jokes as now former Congressman George Santos.
One of the members of Congress who remains a steadfast champion of cannabis reform is Ohio Rep. David Joyce. A Republican and graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law who served as a public defender for the first five years of his legal career before serving as a prosecutor for 25 years, Ohio’s 14th District’s Congressman has become an incredibly dedicated representative who has used his status as the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus to push for several reformative measures for all subjects related to cannabis. These grand measures include further access and protections for veterans to mass expungement bills and many different finance and banking-related bills for the cannabis industry as well.
Just a few weeks ago, Joyce introduced a new version of the STATES Act from 2019. In the aftermath of President Trump’s first Attorney General and first Keebler Elf to serve the prestigious position, Jeff Sessions rescinding the Cole Memorandum, the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States Act was introduced by Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren back in 2018 to provide the state-level protections for legal and compliant cannabis operators from federal enforcement. Although that bill didn’t advance very far in the United States Legislature, there were no large-scale operations by the federal government against legally operating dispensaries or cultivations in states that enacted recreationally legal cannabis in either law enforcement organizations or on the federal judicial level.
Since the last attempt to enact a STATES Act-like policy, Congressman Joyce’s home state has voted to legalize recreational cannabis. With Ohio Issue 2, the measure to fully legalize cannabis passed with a substantial 57-42 percent margin in November of 2023. In the state, that margin added up to over 560,000 more people voting in favor of legalization. Even though the current Governor, Mike DeWine, was a vocal opponent of the measure along with The Ohio Republican Party, the measure still passed handsomely. Strangely, the Ohio Democratic Party out declined to endorse the bill.
Despite this major win within his home state, Joyce hasn’t ceased his activities on the Congressional Cannabis Caucus whatsoever.
“The current federal approach to cannabis policy infringes on the rights of states to implement their own laws, stifling critical medical research, hurting legitimate businesses, and diverting vital law enforcement resources needed elsewhere,” Joyce wrote on a post on his website. “The STATES Act does what every federal bill should do – help all 50 states succeed. This bill respects the will of the states that have legalized cannabis in some form and allows them to implement their own policies without fear of repercussion from the federal government.”
In one of his final actions as a member of Congress, Congressman Earl Blumenauer assisted Joyce in the creation of this bill every step of the way.
“I am proud to have worked on multiple iterations of the STATES Act with my friend Dave Joyce. Cannabis reform benefits from such true bipartisan engagement.” Blumenauer said. “I look forward to our work to make the federal government a better partner to the states of all political stripes leading the path forward.”
With four more years of observance into how the cannabis industry within each state operates and the expansion of legal cannabis into an astonishing 15 more states, the 2.0 version of The STATES Act has several more clauses and provisions that directly address some of the many struggles that the American cannabis industry faces regardless of what state they’re in.
Most notably, cannabis would be entirely descheduled, removing it from the Controlled Substances List and far away from the unjust distinction of Schedule 1 that it’s ridiculously received. Cannabis would also be regulated like alcohol and receive similar regulation through the ATF and FDA. Some other interesting provisions that will be included will be a prohibition of distributing cannabis at a “transportation safety” facility such as a rest area or truck stop. Just like alcohol, consumers will have to be 21 or older to legally purchase any cannabis products in any of the states that are recreationally selling cannabis.
Although there aren’t any direct provisions about interstate sales, the complete descheduling of cannabis would ideally make interstate cannabis sales far less of a heavily prohibited and heavily fined issue than it currently is.
There are two consequential and deeply important parts of the STATES Act 2.0 would be monumental for both cannabis research and the many issues related to taxing that the cannabis industry faces given the legal purgatory the industry finds itself in. First the STATES Act 2.0 would require that a study be completed by the Comptroller General on “traffic safety, including whether states are able to accurately evaluate marijuana impairment, testing standards used by these states, and a detailed assessment of traffic incidents.”
The second part of STATES Act 2.0 that will greatly benefit the burgeoning yet struggling cannabis industry is the addressing of the long overdue reform of Tax Code 280E, a tax code created during the Reagan administration’s first few years to disallow any federally illegal businesses such as drug traffickers from deducting common business expenses from their yearly taxes. This tax code was created in 1982, a full three decades before Colorado made history to legalize a federally illegal substance and bring the problems caused by this specific tax code.
“The STATES Act 2.0 will clearly state that compliant transactions are not trafficking and do not result in proceeds of an unlawful transaction.” Joyce wrote. “Additionally, conduct in compliance with the STATES Act shall not be subject to section 280E of the Internal Revenue code relating to expenditures and revenue in connection with the sale of illegal drugs.”
With the influx of younger representatives elected over the past four years and a very certain shift of how elected conservatives view cannabis, the STATES Act 2.0 may have a chance of legislative success where its predecessor fell short.