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Republican-led federal marijuana legalization effort reappears in Congress

A bipartisan but Republican-led effort to legalize marijuana federally was reintroduced in Congress last week, but chances for passage might be slim in the House under new Speaker Mike Johnson.

Rep. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina republican, was expected to reintroduce the States Reform Act before Oct. 24, when her office refiled a bill “to amend the Controlled Substances Act regarding marihuana.”

The bill, which currently has no text and serves as a placeholder, of sorts, has four co-sponsors: Democratic Reps. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and David Trone of Maryland as well as Republican Reps. Tom McClintock of California and Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Mace’s office did not immediately provide a statement to MJBizDaily.

A previous version of Mace’s marijuana legalization bill – introduced in November 2021, when Democrats still controlled the House – would have removed marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and set a 3.75% federal excise tax on sales.

Most other regulatory questions would be left to individual states.

Capitol Hill observers expected Mace to reintroduce the bill earlier in the session, but the second-term Republican’s role in the House speaker drama complicated matters.

In October, Mace voted with seven other far-right Republicans, including Gaetz, to oust Kevin McCarthy as House speaker.

But there were signs of friction between Mace and House leadership as early as February.

That led D.C. insiders to speculate that McCarthy signaled that any Mace-led legalization effort would be blocked.

And now, prospects under the new speaker are not rosy given that Johnson has long been opposed to marijuana reform.

The conservative Louisiana Christian has voted against every reform bill during his tenure in D.C.

In an editorial published Thursday, the Washington Examiner – considered a bellwether of conservative thinking in D.C. – urged lawmakers to oppose the “Mace and Gaetz marijuana show” – in part because of their opposition to McCarthy.

Other congressional marijuana-reform efforts remain in limbo until Johnson’s priorities as speaker become clearer.

But most all federal business is on hold in the Capitol until Congress passes spending bills to avoid a looming government shutdown on Nov. 17.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday passed three funding bills that differ significantly from similar measures advanced in the House.

The full Senate is still expected to take up SAFER Banking, a long-awaited marijuana banking-reform bill that passed a committee hearing in September.

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