There is a lot of curiosity building around the 118th congress and what it can, and can’t, accomplish over the next two years. With the House of Representatives now controlled by republicans, and the senate and executive branches remaining democratic, there will certainly be some difference of opinions, and higher hurdles to jump over if lawmakers hope to pass meaningful legislation.
But one issue that had forward momentum in the previous congress, and that has built a bit of bipartisan support, is marijuana policy. A perfect example of exactly how bipartisan cannabis legalization has become is the States Reform Act, which was sponsored by republican congresswoman Nancy Mace.
We had the opportunity to correspond with representative Mace via email after she and other lawmakers attended a hearing called “Developments in State Cannabis Laws and Bipartisan Cannabis Reforms at the Federal Level,” on November 15. We were wondering how this hearing left her thinking about cannabis legalization during the 118th congress, and the current trajectory of the States Reform Act.
In regards to the hearing, “The room was packed with passionate supporters who want to see our country take this historic step forward,” congresswoman Mace wrote. “We were left cautiously optimistic and energized for continued progress,” she continued.
When asked about the current timeline for her bill, she said the timeline remains the same. “The cosponsors of the bill and I are making a push to get the bill passed this Congress with an alternative strategy for the text going into the 118th Congress,” Mace wrote.
It is clear that congresswoman mace is determined to reach across the aisle in Washington in order to make this bill work, and break through to those still skeptical about cannabis in both parties. “Something so popular across the country should not remain so controversial in DC,” wrote the congresswoman. In regards to the political shift in congress, moving from democratic to republican, the republican congresswoman remains optimistic about the bill’s chances.
“A republican shift in congress could bring increased support for the States Reform Act,” Mace wrote. “States should be granted the right to choose their own path on cannabis, and the conservative case for limited federal government provides a framework for this type of policy,” she continued. She also wrote that the Republicans she has spoken with “recognize the burden will be upon our party to get this right.”
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We also had the chance to ask John Hudak, Ph.D. deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management and a senior fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings about the hearings and the future trajectory of cannabis reform.
“The latest congressional hearing was a breath of fresh air from our day-to-day politics because it showed an issue that has bipartisan support from all types of ideologies in Congress,” Hudak wrote in an email.
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Hudak also had a bit of optimism about the final weeks of the 117th congress, and their ability to get some meaningful work done in their lame duck session.
“While full scale legalization will not pass during the lame duck, there is opportunity for meaningful piece-meal reforms to get through the U.S. Senate,” he wrote. The current congress and the lame duck session will end on January 3.
When it comes to the next few years, however, Hudak is much less optimistic. “The opportunity for cannabis reform efforts will die with the current 117th Congress,” he wrote. “Republican House leaders have shown very little interest and in some cases explicit opposition to large-scale cannabis reform,” he wrote.
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The only thing that really is certain about the 118th congress is that no one is really certain about anything. Conservatives have been slower to move on cannabis legalization than liberals, but people like representative Mace and her co-sponsors are examples of those who may shift that viewpoint and stigma when it comes to conservatives and cannabis, and, in turn, may just help make some changes to marijuana laws in the 118th congress.