And Meanwhile, in Washington . . .

W

hile cannabis advocates, entrepreneurs and plutocrats alike
swarm Lansing with various plans for Michigan’s cannabis future, a flurry of
legislative activity has hit our nation’s capital. No fewer than seven bills
have been introduced at the federal level, many of which could have a
significant impact on Michigan’s current treatment of cannabis.

Before we examine
these closely and get too nervous or excited, it bears emphasizing that our U.S.
Congress does not have a knack for productivity in its recent history. It is
entirely possible that these 535 people—who usually cannot agree that the sky
is blue—will pass none of this legislation; however, it is nonetheless remarkable
that this many bills have even been introduced, and it is a testament not only
to the growing popularity of cannabis as medicine and hemp as industry, but to
the awareness that states are capable of safely regulating cannabis without the
interference and oversight of the federal government.

The CARERS Act,
introduced in both the house and senate, has gotten perhaps the most press but
is, in this attorney’s opinion, the least appealing of the bunch for the fact
that it would only reschedule cannabis to a Schedule II drug under the Controlled
Substances Act. This would not only put cannabis squarely into the control of
the pharmaceutical industry, but would trigger Michigan PA 268, better known by
its bill number, the dreaded SB-660 of late 2013, which would create
pharmaceutical cannabis in Michigan. To the naïve reader not privy to the
politics behind SB-660, pharmaceutical grade cannabis may not sound too bad. After
all, it’s legal. To those in the industry, however, it is the harbinger of the
slow, suffocating death of all of the industry, small business and local
economy created across our state in the past six years. The dawn of Walmart cannabis.
Yuck.

The remainder of the
bills introduced are varying degrees of awesomeness. HB-262 would prohibit the
federal government from seizing any real property due to medical cannabis activity.
No guarantee that Michigan would follow suit, of course, but a step in the
right direction. HR 525/ S 134 would essentially legalize industrial hemp so we
can start growing it ourselves instead of importing it from China. HR-667 would
allow VA health care providers to recommend medical marihuana with the veterans
they serve. Considering the plight of the modern veteran and the advances in
PTSD treatment that cannabis promises, this would be a great thing.

The last two bills,
introduced together by the same sponsors, are complementary and provide the
most common sense approach by far: HR-1013 and 1014 sanitize the Controlled
Substances Act of any mention of the word “marijuana,” even down to the federal
drug policy statement, and insert the regulation of cannabisinto the U.S. Alcohol Administration Act. They
take cannabis out of the hands of the DEA and give it to the ATF (making a
really weird sounding ATMF) and tax it like alcohol. Simple, elegant and maybe
even in our lifetime.

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