Following Oregon lawmakers’ decision to approve interstate cannabis commerce, federal legislators from the state have put forth a bill in Congress to allow such a thing to happen prior to any full-on U.S. legalization measure.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced the State Cannabis Commerce Act June 27. In short, the bill protects states from federal interference: As long as the states in question have legalized and regulated a cannabis market, they would be free to oversee cannabis sales across their borders. In the case of Oregon, whose governor signed an interstate cannabis commerce bill earlier this month, discussions have cited cannabis sales with nearby California and Nevada.
But looking ahead and more broadly, the idea of interstate cannabis commerce opens up an entirely new paradigm for the fragmented U.S. cannabis industry. States like Minnesota, for instance, which may not have an ideal climate for outdoor cannabis cultivation, could source wholesale flower and other cannabis products from a state like Oregon. Customers across the U.S. could have access to the full marketplace of cannabis. The notion recalls the global wine industry.
"It's the future and Congress ought not deny it.”
- NORML Political Director Justin Strekal
“As more and more states legalize cannabis, the gap between state and federal laws will only grow more confusing for both legal businesses and consumers,” Wyden said. “The solution is clear: the federal government needs to end its senseless and out of touch prohibition. As we fight for that ultimate goal, however, Congress can and should immediately act to protect the will of Oregonians and voters in other states from federal interference—and that should include interstate cannabis commerce.”
While Oregon lawmakers approved their state bill with the contingency that the U.S. must first legalize cannabis, in one form or another, the Wyden/Blumenauer legislation cuts to the chase and places the issue of the free market front and center.
The bill joins a host of other cannabis-related legislation currently drifting through Congress. Most notably, the SAFE Banking Act has seen several hearings and received attention from lobbyists and the business press. And earlier in June, the U.S. House approved “an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill prohibits the Justice Department from using funds to prevent states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia from implementing laws authorizing the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of marijuana,” according to a Cannabis Trade Federation press release.
And earlier this year, in fact, Wyden and Blumenauer introduced a set of three bills—a “Path to Marijuana Reform”—that would work in concert to “shrink the gap between federal and state cannabis laws” and tax and regulate cannabis at the federal level.
Where the State Cannabis Commerce Act goes is anyone’s guess, but U.S. lawmakers are slowly grasping the political momentum behind cannabis reform.
NORML Political Director Justin Strekal summarized the long game when describing this latest bill: “In short, it's the future and Congress ought not deny it.”