A new interstate cannabis commerce bill would allow marijuana to be transported between marijuana-legal states.
A new bill would allow states to legally import and export marijuana products with other states that have legalized marijuana. The State Cannabis Commerce Act, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would prohibit the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with businesses shipping their marijuana products to states where it has been legalized.
The new legislation also includes a provision that prevents the DOJ from meddling in the cannabis industry within states with established legal marijuana markets. Thirty-three U.S. states have legalized marijuana in some capacity.
“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. The solution is clear: the federal government needs to end its senseless and of touch prohibition,” Wyden said.
The bill introduced by Wyden and Blumenauer would only allow cannabis to be imported and exported between states that have passed an interstate commerce law comparable to Oregon’s.
As of now, cannabis cannot be transported or sold across state lines because of federal marijuana prohibition. The lack of interstate exchange lead to an oversupply of cannabis in Oregon earlier this year, causing a large drop in price that adversely affected businesses.
Oregon lawmakers quickly took action to address the issue. Just last week, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill that permits the state to export its marijuana to other states. However, the law cannot take effect unless the federal government first lifts its ban.
Polls show the vast majority of Americans are in favor of the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, despite many federal lawmakers still believing that it is a harmful substance.
“The federal government is hopelessly out of touch with the American people on cannabis,” Blumenauer said.
One of the fundamental powers assigned to the U.S. Congress in the Constitution is the power to regulate interstate commerce. That power has been previously invoked to pass many significant laws, such as health care reform.
The Nature of the Marijuana Market
Without allowed interstate marijuana shipments, states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana must grow, process, and sell their own marijuana products within state lines.
This lack of interstate exchange has likely lead to market inefficiencies and inequalities. Oregon and Northern California, for example, are known for growing far better strains of cannabis than those that are available elsewhere.
The end of federal marijuana prohibition would thus spur greater market competition. Those cannabis companies producing a product considered by the market to be inferior would likely succumb to competition and go out of business, or be absorbed by their rivals.
“Interstate commerce is good for both patients and consumers, as it will decrease the amount of time it takes for recently enacted medical programs to see products on the shelves and increase the variety of consumer options in both the adult-use and medical marketplaces,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said in a statement. “Just as Americans around the country enjoy Kentucky bourbon, so should they be allowed to enjoy Oregon cannabis.”
However, nothing was included in Wyden and Blumenauer’s State Cannabis Commerce Act that would impact federal prohibition, an action likely considered too difficult at the present time.