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Pot Matters: 4/20/20

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What will 4/20 bring in 2020? Think positive thoughts. Imagine…

Today, April 20, 2020, the president signed the National Cannabis Restoration Act (NCRA) of 2020—effectively legalizing marijuana throughout the United States in all states and on federal territory. The NCRA puts a formal and enthusiastic end to marijuana prohibition in the United States. As part of this far-reaching and historic piece of legislation, the term marijuana has been eliminated from federal law in favor of the more accurate name of “cannabis.”

The most important provisions of the NCRA include a federal excise tax on cannabis cultivation, protections for individuals to grow cannabis for both personal use and small-scale trade and a national age limit restricting cannabis use, possession, manufacture and trade to individuals 21 years and older.

The NCRA establishes a federal excise tax at $2 per 1 percent of THC per ounce and requires registration, testing and audit provisions administered by a newly formed Bureau of Cannabis Research and Regulation (BCRR). In addition to monitoring cannabis cultivation and collecting excise tax revenue, the BCRR will also provide grants to facilitate both medical and industrial research on cannabis.

Individuals will also have the right to grow up to 25 plants tax-free for personal and/or small-scale commercial use but will have to obtain a permit from the BCCR and file an annual report. The permit fee will initially be set at $50 with increases capped at no more than 5 percent every 3 years as determined by the bureau.

All firms registering with the BCCR and remaining in good standing regarding registration, reporting and payment of excise taxes will be able to engage in interstate commerce throughout the country, irrespective of state and local laws. States may, however, implement their own excise taxes, but state taxes may not exceed the national tax. Local governments may not impose additional taxes, and their revenue will be restricted to local sales taxes. While local governments will retain zoning authority over cannabis production facilities, local zoning ordinances may not infringe on personal cultivation rights.

The National Cannabis Restoration Act cleared the House of Representatives by a vote of 258 to 177, with opposition votes coming mostly from southern states resisting the trend of state-level legalization that has swept the rest of the country over the last decade. The Senate approved the NCRA by a vote of 68 to 32 after a compromise was reached on federal and state excise tax levels and capping personal cultivation levels at 25 plants. Senators from western and northeastern states had been holding out for a lower taxation level and a greater allowance for personal cultivation. The compromise legislation, pushed by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, broke the logjam in the Senate and produced a filibuster-proof majority. The compromise easily passed the House by the exact same margin as the original legislation.

Advocacy groups cautioned legalization supporters from public celebrations of the demise of prohibition and the advent of legalization throughout the country.

Representative of the hemp and medical marijuana industries expressed muted support for the new law, recognizing that the legislation was beneficial to both industries in the long run by eliminating legal obstacles caused by remnants of prohibition (such as the long-ignored scheduling of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act).

“This ends a long and damaging distraction from the fight against heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other dangerous drugs,” said a spokesman for the DEA, welcoming the signing of the NCRA.  

Public opinion has been solidly behind legalization of cannabis for several years, and political commentators pointed to the passage of several legalization measures in 2016 and 2018 as the key events in clearing the way for national legislation.

Despite the historic nature of the NCRA, pro-consumer advocates pledged to continue the fight for better and more effective cannabis regulations. 

A spokesperson for the National Cannabis Consumers Lobby called attention to the emergence of new political and regulatory issues, chiefly concerning the clashing interests of producers and consumers. 

“Now we’re on familiar turf—protecting consumers from industry-friendly legislation that enhances corporate profits at the expense of consumer safety, value and convenience,” the organization said in a released statement.

However, these conflicts can wait, as cannabis users across the nation celebrated what HIGH TIMES has called “the best 4/20 ever.”

(Photo Courtesy of kymkemp.com)

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