Rep. Don Young and several other Republican lawmakers are co-sponsoring legislation to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and let individual states prohibit or regulate it like alcohol.

The federal government also would impose a 3% federal excise tax on the sale of cannabis products, sending most of the revenues to police programs and to the Small Business Administration to help business startups.

The States Reform Act is similar to a GOP-led bill, known as the Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act, that Young led six months ago. But the States Reform Act has the support of a new coalition of Republican lawmakers. Young is a long-time supporter of cannabis reform, representing a state that was among the first to legalize marijuana. He also is founder of the congressional Cannabis Caucus.

“The Congressman is pleased to see a growing number of his Republican colleagues come around to the very work he’s been doing on the Cannabis Caucus for many years,” Zack Brown, Young’s communications director, said Tuesday. “Fundamentally, this is a states rights’ and individual liberty issue. The congressman will continue to advocate among his peers for the cause of getting the federal government out of the way of states with legal adult-use cannabis.”

Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, the bill’s lead sponsor, is a new backer of cannabis reform legislation. She is a fiscal conservative who distinguished herself as the first female to graduate from the Citadel. In addition to Young, the bill’s GOP co-sponsors are Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, a military veteran; Peter Meijer of Michigan, also a military veteran; and Tom McClintock of California, a six-term member of Congress. The lawmakers are considered party conservatives and moderates.

“For too long, the federal government has stood in the way of states that have acted to set their own cannabis policies,” Young said when the bill was introduced. “My state legalized adult-use cannabis in 2014, and as Alaska’s sole representative in the House and co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus, I am proud to help introduce the States Reform Act.”

“Washington needs to provide a framework which allows states to make their own decisions on cannabis moving forward. This bill does that,” Mace said when she introduced the bill.

The States Reform Act would remove cannabis from the federal list of illegal controlled substances that include heroin. Individual states would regulate cannabis like alcohol, choosing to prohibit it or allowing it to be sold commercially. The bill would set a federal minimum age of 21 to consume cannabis.

The federal government would impose a 3% excise tax on cannabis products sold. The tax is considerably less than Democratic lawmakers propose in similar bills. Revenues from the federal excise tax would go to police agencies (40%), the Small Business Administration (30%), mental health programs for military veterans (10%), state opioid treatment (5%) and underage cannabis prevention (5%).

The act would expunge the records of those convicted of non-violent, cannabis-related federal offenses. Anyone convicted as a gang or cartel member, or of driving under the influence, would not be eligible.

In introducing the bill, Mace noted that the vast majority of Americans, at 70% according to new Gallup poll numbers, want to see cannabis decriminalized. All but three states (Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska) have some form of legalized cannabis, for recreational and/or medicinal use.

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

“This legislation, I believe, has something for everyone. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Mace said at a Nov. 15 press conference to introduce the bill. “We should have done this a long time ago.’’

Calling the bill “common sense legislation” Young said, “I am grateful to Congresswoman Nancy Mace for her leadership on this important issue. As co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus, I will continue working to protect individual liberty and the right of states to make their own decisions on cannabis.”

Contact Linda F. Hersey at 907-459-7575 or at lhersey@newsminer.com. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.

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