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Photo: Rep. Nancy Mace/Twitter
New legislation on Marijuana decriminalization could mean big things on the national stage. Photo: Rep. Nancy Mace/Twitter

Republicans get in on the federal decriminalization of marijuana

A new bill from South Carolina’s Nancy Mace would strip cannabis’ Schedule 1 drug classification, expunge records, and call for a 3% tax.

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U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, a first-term Republican from South Carolina, introduced a bill on Monday, Nov. 15 that seeks to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, which she hopes will amass more GOP support for the legalization movement.

“This legislation, I believe, has something good for everyone, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Mace told reporters outside the Capitol, where she introduced the States Reform Act.

Although the substance is legal in 18 states, including Massachusetts, Colorado and Virginia, with medical use permissible in 37 states, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. 

The States Reform Act would strip cannabis of its classification as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which makes it a crime to possess marijuana. Mace’s office said the bill intends to decriminalize the substance in a way that is “consistent with the rights of states to determine what level of cannabis reform or legalization each state wants to regulate, or not.” 

The legislation would also expunge records of federal convictions in nonviolent cases and create a blueprint for federal regulation and enforcement in states that permit the sale of marijuana. 

Consumers must be 21 years or older to buy the substance, Mace said, adding that the bill would implement regulations similar to restrictions on alcohol. 

The bill also calls for a 3% federal excise tax on the substance, lower than the level in a Democratic bill making its way through the House. 

“I kept it very low,” Mace told NBC News, citing high marijuana taxes in California, which she said have led to increased black market sales. 

“It’s got to be under 4% to reduce the opportunity for illicit markets,” she said. 

Revenue from the excise tax would support community reinvestment, law enforcement and Small Business Administration activities. 

“This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses, and it is good for criminal justice reform,” Mace said in a statement on Monday.

A Gallup poll released earlier this month showed that 68% of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana, with support from 83% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans. 

Mace says the bill already has five Republican co-sponsors, including Reps. Peter Meijer, Don Young, and Tom McClintock. 

“My main goal is to get as much Republican support as I can initially, and we’re hearing great feedback from both chambers, both sides of the aisle on this piece of legislation,” Mace said at a press conference on Monday.

Weldon Angelos, an advocate who’s worked with Mace’s office on the bill along with partners at the Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA), told Marijuana Moment that the main goal is to coordinate a bipartisan conversation about what legalization should look like.

There is much more he’d like to see happen in terms of social equity, but he believes this is an excellent starting point.

“The whole idea behind CFA wasn’t to have the Republicans steal this [issue] from the Democrats. The people behind the scenes, like my organization, just want to make this a reality. And we can’t get there without this step, which is this bill that’s been introduced by Congresswoman Nancy Mace,” Angelos said. 

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