As the American cannabis industry increases drastically in both size and total retail sales, the inevitability of federal legalization seems to be almost set in stone with every extra billion dollars that the industry produces. Although a few stubborn career politicians stand in the way of substantial cannabis reform on the highest level, their seats in the United States Legislature will become vacant eventually and their successor will almost certainly be both more in favor of cannabis reform policies and will be significantly younger too.
Seeing how crystal clear that this failed prohibition of cannabis has been and the subsequent success of a regulated and legal cannabis industry multiple times throughout his career in politics, Colorado Senator Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has introduced federal legislation to regulate a national cannabis industry in the same manner as the gargantuan multi-billion dollar alcohol industry that’s largely prevalent in all facets and corners of American life. Given the fact that at least one or two American states legalize cannabis with every biennial election and the added condition that cannabis will be recreationally legal in 23 states, it’s safe to assume that cannabis will be very soon legal and easily accessible in half of the country. In such an important moment in this industry’s history, this legislation that Senator Hickenlooper introduced couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time.
Titled the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE) Act, the possibilities and outcomes of this bill wouldn’t be as groundbreaking and far-reaching as the MORE Act but would nonetheless provide research and the discussion of regulation into what a federally legal cannabis industry would resemble and how it would operate.
According to the summary of the cleverly named PREPARE Act, the bill will establish “a Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis to study a prompt and plausible pathway to the federal regulation of cannabis and for other purposes.” More importantly, the PREPARE Act would authorize the Attorney General themselves to create that commission, meaning that whomever the current Presidential administration is when assuming this act is signed into law could be crucial in the success or failure of this bill.
Over the course of nearly his three years in office, President Joe Biden has yet to sign any large-scale cannabis reform measures that could fundamentally change even a few of the many problems of the criminal justice system beyond a round of federal pardons for simple possession cases in October of 2022. Unfortunately though, many of the Republican candidates for President in 2024 have voiced either apathy towards the cause of cannabis reform or outright hostility.
Former President Donald Trump has refused to use his self-proclaimed businessman acumen on the subject of cannabis and hasn’t seemed to acknowledge the economic benefits of the American cannabis industry nor did he didn’t pass any substantial federal reform during his tenure in the White House. Trump did put Jeff Sessions in office, who set the industry back several years.
Two of the main benefits of this flourishing industry are both considerable job creation and the fact that all cannabis products are American made and produced. Trump ran very much on a campaign of “bringing jobs to America” and bringing the means of production for American industries back on US soil, yet did very little for cannabis reform or expansion beyond simply mentioning that it was a state’s rights issue.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley voiced a similar state’s rights stance on cannabis and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson served as the 8th Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency under President Dubya. During his time at the DEA, Hutchinson’s department raided nearly 40 different cannabis providers in the early days of San Francisco’s cannabis market. Therefore, Hutchinson is likely the most anti-cannabis candidate currently in the running based on their record. In between shutting down public bridges and shutting down public beaches, Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie never once considerably supported any cannabis measures either.
Although not necessary, the PREPARE Act airs out the many wrongs and mistakes that the federal government of the 1930’s and onward took when it came to the policies surrounding cannabis and how societally damaging those policies became over the decades.
“Cannabis was federally legal in the United States until 1937 and cannabis was federally prohibited to codify discriminatory practices against minority communities.” the draft of the bill plainly states.“Medical cannabis prohibition was established despite objections from the American Medical Association.”
The bill then goes into the many widespread challenges and setbacks that the modern-day American cannabis industry faces on a daily basis given the purgatory-like “illegal on the federal level but legal on various state levels” status that cannabis currently holds.
“Despite the Federal Government collecting revenue from the sale of cannabis, individuals are still criminally persecuted for its use. Cannabis research, including research on medical uses, product safety, and impairment standards, is severely hindered and made nearly impossible by its schedule 1 classification.” For record, the American industry grew rapidly from 2014-2022 and raised a total of $15 billion in overall tax revenue all while remaining totally illegal on the federal level. The PREPARE Act also cites the handful of other countries and global superpowers that have already fully legalized cannabis and/or have become pioneers in scientific research for this very dynamic plant.
“While the United States remains trapped in antiquated cannabis regulations, other nations and scientific competitors, including the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea, Germany and Israel have modified their laws to allow for varying degrees of cannabis legality and medical research.”
Before serving as Senator of Colorado, Hickenlooper served as Governor of that very same state and it was during his tenure that the state passed the historic Amendment 64, which became the first recreational cannabis bill to be enacted in America. Despite his own objections to the measure at the time, Hickenlooper can clearly see both the economic benefits of creating a recreational cannabis industry and the societal benefits of ending the unnecessarily cruel prohibition of cannabis. As he has witnessed mostly successful cannabis policies that can be enacted throughout his career, Hickenlooper believes that the PREPARE Act is certainly the right step for America to take legislatively.
“Colorado’s is the model for a safe, well-regulated marijuana market,” said Hickenlooper in a press release on his website. “Let’s build on that success with federal regulation.”