Federal Cannabis Legislation: PREPARE Act

On Thursday, a bipartisan collection of congressmen introduced a bill that would require to US Attorney General to lead a commission to oversee the process of making recommendations for a cannabis regulation system comparable to the current alcohol regulation system. The bill, called the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE Act), was introduced by Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH), along with co-sponsor representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Brian Mast (R-FL).

According to the bill’s summary, the Act will “establish a Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis to study a prompt and plausible pathway to the Federal regulation of cannabis, and for other purposes.” The Act’s purpose, according to the bill, includes:

The President and Congress shall prepare the Federal Government for an inevitable and prompt end to Federal marihuana prohibition by establishing a commission to advise on the development of a regulatory framework with respect to marihuana regulation, including accounting for the different characteristics of communities, agencies, and industries impacted by Federal marihuana prohibition. Such regulatory framework shall be modeled after Federal and State regulatory frameworks with respect to alcohol.

The bill cites that the cannabis sales produce revenue for the federal government, yet those that use cannabis are still “criminally persecuted.” The bill also cites that cannabis is proven to be medically beneficial for people “suffering from pain, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, among other diseases.”

In a press release, Joyce stated:

with 91 percent of Americans supporting either medical or recreational cannabis legalization, it’s time for the federal government to respect the will of our voters—both Democrat and Republican alike—and begin a serious conversation about what a post-prohibition America should look like.

This implies similarities between cannabis and alcohol regulation.

The PREPARE Act is just one more in a flurry of recent proposed federal cannabis legislation. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) was initially proposed in 2020, and just passed through the House of Representatives by vote on March 31. Unlike the MORE Act, which aims at removing marijuana from the list of banned substances, the PREPARE Act focuses on the creation of a committee charged with making recommendations regarding how to regulate cannabis in the United States.

Other proposed federal legislation concerning cannabis include the States Reform Act, introduced last year by Republican South Carolina Representative Nancy Mace, and the delayed Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Recently, the Senate also passed The Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, a bill focused more narrowly on research efforts.

As with other federal cannabis legislation (some good; some bad), the PREPARE Act faces an uncertain future. The bill would have to pass through the House of Representatives to advance to the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris. Making it to a vote in the Senate would itself be a victory, as the 2020 edition of the MORE Act passed through the House before it lost support in the Senate even before a vote could take place.

Competing legislation could also hinder the passage of the bill into law. Representative Joyce voted against the MORE Act last month, showing that while many in Congress support updated federal legislation concerning cannabis, the way by which cannabis is re-conceptualized through legislation can significantly attract or detract support from others with the same objective.