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Senator Introduces Bill To Set Up Framework for Federal Cannabis Legalization

On Thursday, Sen. John Hickenlooper introduced a bill to establish the regulatory framework for the eventual legalization of marijuana by the federal government. 

Hickenlooper is a Colorado Democrat who said that the Preparing Regulators for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE) would assist the government in preparing for such a drastic shift in policy. 

The bill’s introduction comes ten years after Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize recreational pot when voters there approved Amendment 64, which happened when Hickenlooper served as governor of the state. 

Hickenlooper set up a task force a month following that vote in 2012, which provided recommendations for the state’s cannabis regulations. 

Hickenlooper stated that he was using the PREPARE Act to draw from the same playbook. 

“Colorado successfully pioneered marijuana legalization a decade ago, thanks in part to the Amendment 64 Task Force,” Hickenlooper said in a statement on Thursday. “Federal legalization doesn’t need to start from scratch, and we should prepare for when it arrives.”

The senator’s office said that the bill “would establish a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the development of regulations at the federal level that incorporates many of the lessons learned by these states,” and that the legislation is “a Senate companion to Republican Congressman Dave Joyce’s bipartisan bill in the House.”

“I’m thrilled that the PREPARE Act will be introduced in the Senate, making it not only further bipartisan, but bicameral, and bringing it one step closer to becoming law,” Joyce in the press release on Thursday. “This legislation gives lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the answers they need to effectively engage on cannabis reform, safely and effectively regulate it, and remedy the harms caused by the failed war on cannabis. With these answers, Congress will be able to create a federal regulatory framework that respects all the rights and needs of every state and ensures safety for communities. This commonsense bill was introduced in the House. It made me proud and I thank Senator Hickenlooper in the Senate for moving it. I look forward to continuing to work together to pave the way for more comprehensive reform.”

Despite having control of Congress and the White House, Democrats were unable to get a federal legalization bill over the finish line before next week’s midterm election.

In April, the House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Expungement, and Reinvestment (MORE Act), which would have removed marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.

However, the Democratic-led Senate is yet to present its version. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last weekend that the Senate is “very close” to passing a bill that would allow state-legal cannabis retailers to receive financial services from banks. Although it wouldn’t legalize marijuana, the legislation would include expungements of cannabis convictions. 

President Joe Biden declared last month pardons for all those convicted of marijuana possession in federal court. Also, he expressed his desire to eliminate cannabis from The Controlled Substances Act.

“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said at the time.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” the president added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”