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Federal Decriminalization: Is It Possible to Please Everyone?

Reforming federal marijuana laws and federal decriminalization seems to be a hot topic all of a sudden. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering two cannabis reform bills. The Senate also has its own piece of legislation making its way through the process. How it all turns out is anyone's guess. But when it comes to rewriting federal cannabis laws, is it possible to please everyone?

This question stems from a recent article published on The Cannigma website. The piece, from contributor Codi Peterson, PharmD, does an excellent job of laying out the strong and weak points of the three federal bills. Peterson's main concern is that none of the three bills adequately address Medical Cannabis and the needs of patients.

How can this be? Because all three bills are primarily centered around de-scheduling and federal decriminalization. By extension, they do an excellent job of establishing a legal framework by which the recreational market can be controlled. But a lack of substantive proposals to regulate the medical market leaves a lot of consumers out of the equation.

Legislation for Medical Consumers

As things stand, it does not appear there are any legislative efforts being undertaken on behalf of medical consumers. But if such legislation did exist, what would it look like? Intriguing proposals have been offered:

  • Taxation – Medical Marijuana would be free of federal taxes. Unfortunately, that would require creating a two-tiered system for growers and processors.
  • Insurance Coverage – Insurance companies would not only be allowed to pay for Medical Marijuana, but it would also be required under the ACA.
  • Affordability – Controls would be put in place to ensure that Medical Cannabis remains affordable to all patients.
  • Interstate Transport – Federal standards would control transporting Medical Marijuana across state lines. As a result, states could not prohibit patients from carrying their medicine state-to-state.
  • Prescriptions – Federal standards would also result in medical professionals writing prescriptions for Medical Cannabis in the same way they do any other medicine.

All these reform suggestions are both reasonable and necessary. But achieving them may prove to be a bit challenging due to marijuana's nature as both a medicine and a recreational product.

Federal vs. State Law

Peterson asserts that the three federal bills now being worked on assume that regulating the medical market would be left to the states. That being the case, Washington's only interest appears to be in the recreational market. But that leaves Medical Cannabis patients in a position only slightly better than where they are now. And yet, there may be no other way to proceed.

What if Washington follows through with the federal decriminalization of marijuana? How does Washington tax growers based on whether they are producing for the recreational or medical market? The very same question applies to processors. Guaranteeing that Medical Cannabis patients pay no tax while recreational users do would create an administrative nightmare.

Home grow is another issue. If home grow is allowed for medical purposes, how do you stop it for recreational purposes? And once you allow recreational home growing, is there any realistic hope of eliminating the black market?

There are no easy answers in any of this. Hopefully, lawmakers will find a way to address as many needs as possible in any final legislation. But when all is said and done, it is probably not possible to please everyone. No matter how marijuana is eventually decriminalized at the federal level, someone is going to be left out of the equation.

By UtahMarijuana.org
Published February 22, 2022
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