Top 10 Most Supported Marijuana Bills in US Congress

As we reach the halfway point of 2024, here’s a look at the marijuana-related bills in the US Congress that have garnered the most support.

These legislative efforts span a range of issues from marijuana banking and veterans’ health care to housing and descheduling. All of these measures were filed since January 2023, and will expire if not enacted into law by the end of the year.

Below we will delve into the details of these prominent bills:

The SAFE and SAFER Banking Acts

The SAFE and SAFER Banking Acts have a combined 154 sponsors in the US House of Representatives and Senate. Although they differ slightly in their specific language, both measures would allow banks and credit unions to provide financial services to marijuana businesses that are legal under their state’s law. The proposals would also allow marijuana businesses to take standard IRS tax deductions that they are currently not allowed to do.

In the House, the SAFE Banking Act has 118 sponsors, more than any other marijuana-related bill in US history. In the Senate, the SAFER Banking Act has 36 sponsors, and was approved through the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs in September with bipartisan support.

The SAFER Banking Act has the support of the National Conference of State Legislatures, as well as a bipartisan group of 22 attorneys general.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act

The MORE Act, filed in April 2023, currently has 89 sponsors. Although every sponsor is a Democrat, the MORE Act still remains the marijuana-related measure with the most sponsors outside of the SAFE Banking Act.

The MORE Act deschedule marijuana (aka remove it from the Controlled Substances Act), while allowing for the expungement of past marijuana-related convictions. It would also establish a federal excise tax on state-level marijuana sales.

The MORE Act was passed by the House twice when Democrats were in control, but failed to advance further in a divided Senate. Democrats have vowed to pass the MORE Act or the CAOA (covered below) if they back control of the House and retain the Senate and presidency.

The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA)

The CAOA would also deschedule marijuana, expunge past convictions, and establish a federal marijuana excise tax. Additionally, it would go further by setting federal regulatory standards for marijuana sales similar to those for alcohol. This includes creating a Center for Cannabis Products within the FDA, which would be responsible for regulating “the production, labeling, distribution, sales, and other manufacturing and retail elements of the cannabis industry.”

Although the measure currently only has 18 sponsors —the same as when it was filed weeks ago—it has the support of top Senate Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Veterans Equal Access Act

The Veterans Equal Access Act, filed in September, currently has 29 bipartisan sponsors. The measure would mandate the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to allow providers to discuss medical marijuana with veterans and recommend its use if the patient is in a state where marijuana is legal and the physician deems it beneficial.

Under current law, VA physicians are prohibited from discussing marijuana with their patients, and veterans receiving care from VA facilities cannot obtain the necessary forms to participate in medical marijuana programs, regardless of state legalization for medical use. The Veterans Equal Access Act would change this by providing federal protection to VA doctors who discuss and recommend medical cannabis.

The STATES 2.0 Act

State Representative Dave Joyce (R) introduced the STATES 2.0 Act in December. Despite having only 10 sponsors, the measure enjoys robust bipartisan support.

The Act seeks to amend the Federal Controlled Substances Act, ensuring that individuals and businesses adhering to state drug laws would no longer face federal criminal charges. It also explicitly permits marijuana commerce between states and tribes where it is legal. Furthermore, the measure aims to amend IRS regulation section 280E, allowing state-compliant marijuana businesses to take tax deductions, which is currently prohibited for federally illegal enterprises.

Additionally, the STATES Act mandates the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the effects of marijuana legalization on traffic safety.

The HOPE Act

In April 2023, the HOPE Act was introduced in the House of Representatives with bipartisan backing. This year, a Senate companion bill was introduced by Senator Jackie Rosen (D-NV).

The legislation aims to authorize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide grants to states and local governments to alleviate the financial and administrative burdens of expunging state cannabis offense convictions. Additionally, the Act mandates the DOJ to study and report on the impact of a criminal record for cannabis-related offenses on individuals and the costs associated with incarcerating individuals for such offenses.

Senate Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to incorporating the HOPE Act’s provisions into the SAFER Banking Act before it is brought to the full Senate for consideration.

States Reform Act

In October, Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) introduced the States Reform Act (House Bill 6028), with cosponsors including Representatives Tom McClintock (R-CA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), David Trone (D-MD), and Dean Phillips (D-MN), who is currently challenging President Biden in the Democratic primary.

The Act, as detailed in its legislative brief, aims to “federally decriminalize cannabis and fully defer to state powers over prohibition and commercial regulation.” It also proposes “amendments to relevant statutes to ensure that cannabis products are treated like alcohol, in accordance with Title II of the Act.”

Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act

In January 2023, Congressmember Gregory Steube (R-FL) introduced this bipartisan measure, initially without any cosponsors, but it has since gained six.

The bill “prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from denying any VA benefits to veterans participating in a state-approved marijuana program. For these veterans, the VA must ensure its health care providers (1) discuss marijuana use with them and adjust treatment plans accordingly, and (2) record such use in their medical records.”

Additionally, the bill mandates that the VA “authorize physicians and other VA health care providers to provide recommendations to veterans residing in states with approved programs.”

Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act

In January of this year, Congressmember Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced the Marijuana in Federally Assisted Housing Parity Act in the US House of Representatives. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) filed a companion bill in the Senate. Since its introduction, three additional lawmakers have signed on as cosponsors.

The proposed legislation would permit the use of marijuana in federally assisted housing, including public housing and Section 8 housing, as long as the individual complies with state marijuana laws.

Randy’s Resolution

Earlier this month, Congressmembers Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) introduced bicameral resolutions calling on federal agencies, as well as state and local governments, to intensify research on the potential dangers of high-THC marijuana.

The resolution expresses that “It is the sense of Congress that Federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, should conduct and support research on the health effects of high-potency marijuana and its impact on vulnerable populations such as youth.”

It also “urges Federal, State, and local governments to collaborate with public health organizations, medical professionals, and community stakeholders to develop evidence-based policies that address the public health and safety concerns associated with high-potency marijuana.”

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