Mace, first elected to represent the Palmetto State’s First District in 2020, got the proverbial ball rolling when she introduced the States Reform Act last November.
The Act seeks to remove marijuana as a Schedule I substance and leave cannabis reform up to the states without fear of federal reprisals.
Under the current federal drug scheduling system, there’s no difference between marijuana and heroin, LSD or bath salts. While state laws are relatively liberal, thousands of Americans remain in prison for non-violent marijuana-related violations.
Mace’s legislation, in comparison, would treat marijuana similarly to alcohol by establishing a federal age requirement that users be at least 21 years old.
An Appropriate Balance?
One publication called the States Reform Act “an appropriate balance between federal and state cannabis regulation.”
Watch Mace discuss what motivated her to push to end the federal prohibition on pot:
Polls consistently show that the vast majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, including 54% of Republicans, as of the latest Rasmussen survey. Still, Congress has never made it a priority.
Is Congress About to Catch up With Public Opinion?
Mace’s proposal quickly garnered national attention. The States Reform Act was the first prominent bill related to marijuana legalization sponsored by a House Republican.
In fact, many believe that the political dynamic her bill created could produce an opening to secure votes on both sides of the aisle. So far, it’s won the support of a diverse group of House Republicans, from Don Young (Alaska) to Peter Meijer (Mich.).
Outside the halls of Congress, Mace has the support of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), one of the most influential conservative organizations. And now, Amazon — the second-largest employer in the U.S. — is throwing its might behind the States Reform Act.
Forbes’ Will Yakowicz has more on what makes Mace’s push for cannabis legislation different:
In June, the retail giant announced that it would exclude marijuana from most of its employee drug testing and started lobbying to legalize cannabis. Six months later, the company met with Mace and now says it will support her States Reform Act. “They don’t want to sell it,” Mace says, noting that employment is the driving force behind the support. “It opens up the hiring pool by about 10%.” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, adds: “This bill offers comprehensive reform that speaks to the emergence of a bipartisan consensus to end the federal prohibition of cannabis.”
Mace’s bill is just the latest effort to end the federal government’s ban on marijuana, but the first to come from a Republican. The Safe Banking Act, which would give cannabis companies greater access to the financial system and is sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Ed Perlmutter, both Democrats, has passed the House five times but was nixed from the federal defense spending bill in December. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and fellow Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker proposed a bill to legalize marijuana last summer, but it hasn’t been formally introduced yet. Representative Jerry Nadler’s More Act passed the House, yet the Senate still hasn’t picked it up.
Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ most well-known political advocacy group promptly got behind Mace’s bill. Yakowicz’s piece describes the unprecedented lobbying effort by AFP “to make this the most highly resourced effort in the history of this issue.”
Likewise, the cannabis industry supports the bill which would introduce a 3% federal excise tax on marijuana to help fund law enforcement, small business and veterans’ health care.
Can Republicans and Democrats Come Together?
Besides final passage, Mace’s goal is to get as many Republicans on board as possible and show the hesitant members of her caucus that cannabis reform is a winning issue.
Speaking to Forbes, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, implied the bill is a clarion call for commonsense criminal justice reform that Democrats and Republicans can rally behind. Mace agreed, saying:
“It’s American, it’s uniting,” Mace says. “There are three things that really bring people together—animals, Britney Spears and cannabis. Those are the three things I’ve found that have struck a chord with the American people and that can bring people together at the dinner table—just like apple pie.”
Despite bipartisan cheers and fawning media coverage, Mace’s bill faces long odds and formidable obstacles — including opposition from her party’s socially conservative wing.
But throughout it all, Mace remains undeterred, calling her bill good for veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses and for criminal justice reform.
So, what do you think? Is marijuana legalization a winning campaign issue in 2022 and beyond? Tell us in the comments below and while you’re at it, let us know what other politicians you’d like to hear more about!