The legalization of marijuana across the US has always been an emotive and, at the same time, contentious debate. While over 50% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, the US legislature remains lukewarm if not divided altogether along party lines.
For some reasons yet deciphered, the clamor for weed legislation though popular among the masses, just doesn’t gain the right traction with the lawmakers. It is for this reason that notable celebrities have joined the campaign through the Cannabis in Common initiative to help drive the reform process and fast-track legislation.
Celebrities and the Cannabis in Common initiative
Celebrities Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen, both leading actors, comedians, and filmmakers, have thrown their weight behind the Cannabis in Common initiative to lobby Congress over marijuana legislation. The celebrity pair is collaborating with marijuana advocacy groups and industry players to raise a popular petition and exert pressure on Congress to pass federal law legalizing cannabis.
The thrust of this campaign is to get voters to raise their voices to compel senators into favorable consideration of the federal cannabis legalization bill set for introduction into the house later this year. As it stands now, there is an apparent conflict between the federal law and the state law in those that have legalized medical cannabis use for patients.
The US Cannabis Council and the Cannabis Voter Project, fronted by HeadCount alongside leading players in the marijuana business such as Columbia Care, Weedmaps, Canopy Growth, and Cresco Labs, are the forces behind the Cannabis in Common Initiative. The US Cannabis Council is a conglomeration of leading advocacy groups, major cannabis companies, and thousands of diverse but influential individuals with one mission; federal cannabis legislation.
HeadCount, on the other hand, has experience in partnering with celebrities to stage nonpartisan voter registration drives, which is why combining their resources with the USCC creates a potent voter mobilization for the petition. If this group raises enough numbers, their collective voice could just sway Congress into passing the federal cannabis legalization bill.
Some of the pertinent issues being canvassed include those the US Cannabis Council has pursued previously, such as federal legalization, social equity, expungement of marijuana-related criminal records, industry standards, and ethics. These are the issues the Cannabis in Common initiative wants to be included in the proposed bill and legislated by the US Congress.
The weed legislation, if passed, will bring order into the industry and set quality standards, engagement ethics and set it up as a viable and respectable business in the service of humanity. The celebrities Silverman and Rogen are convinced that the time is now when the politicians are worried about reelection.
What is at stake?
So, what is at stake, and what benefits will the proposed cannabis legislation bring to users, producers, and the government? The first take-home upon legalization should be to remove marijuana from Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act and shift oversight power to states over their programs.
Currently, the state laws that decriminalize marijuana may conflict with federal law, which means cannabis businesses in such states are inherently illegal. The legislation will help to harmonize both the state and federal cannabis laws to regulate the marijuana business and accord it recognition.
Federal regulation will also mean the cannabis industry is brought into the IRS bracket and subject to taxation under the marijuana legislation. Taxation in itself places a seal of legitimacy on a business as the government agency responsible only deals with legally registered entities guaranteeing their acceptance in other sectors.
Today, the many cannabis dispensaries doing business in decriminalized states are denied banking services at financial institutions for lack of legitimacy under the federal laws. It is discriminatory, but it is what it is, and an honest business sector is forced to operate on cash terms like some wartime bootlegger enterprise.
The cannabis community has been growing in the few states that legalized cannabis, and the potential for turning marijuana production and commerce into opportunities for entrepreneurs and revenue for the state is immense.
Cannabis legislation at the federal level is one way this business will thrive and grow in the mainstream with the right support structures from the state and the corporate sector. Dispensaries, growers, and breeders will take up marijuana farming and vending as a commercial enterprise, and the state will earn revenue from license fees and income taxations while consumers will enjoy the quality and fair prices. Under federal legislation, everyone involved in the marijuana sector will be a winner.
Legislate a new beginning
There is a need for a redress of the criminalized past and a new beginning for the cannabis majority who have suffered silently under the adverse federal and state laws. Even in states where cannabis is legalized, there are still restrictions on quantities, containers, storage, and transportation that will attract misdemeanor citations that infringe on personal rights.
The states that allow medicinal cannabis use gave the rights with the right hand and took back some of it with the left hand through selective weed legislation that frequently lands users in custody. Federal legislation will wipe the slate clean and have all parties start on a new page without retroactive action unless it is for redress.
It is time for new beginnings, and like Silverman says, “If we don’t make a change soon, we’re settling for laws that disproportionately land people of color in prison. We’re leaving hundreds of thousands of jobs on the table and giving up tax revenue that can go toward education and other community investments.” This is an attestation of missed opportunities and the resultant negative consequences that federal marijuana legislation can redress and open up the sector as a dignified business in society.
And this should not be a difficulty as a good number of citizens are in agreement over the Cannabis is Common initiative, and as the USCC CEO, Hawkins, says, “We are thrilled to launch this first-of-its-kind campaign. We are creating a lasting grassroots engagement platform that will harness the collective power of cannabis consumers and advocates. An overwhelming majority of Americans hold our views. It’s time for Congress to catch up.”