Senator Introduces Bill To Set Up Framework for Federal Cannabis Legalization


Sen. John Hickenlooper on Thursday introduced a bill that would set up the regulatory framework in the event that the federal government legalizes marijuana. 

Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado, said the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) Act would help the government ready itself for such a dramatic shift in policy. 

The bill’s introduction comes ten years after Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize recreational pot when voters there approved Amendment 64, which happened when Hickenlooper served as governor of the state. 

Hickenlooper set up a task force a month following that vote in 2012, which provided recommendations for the state’s cannabis regulations. 

With the PREPARE Act, Hickenlooper said he is drawing from the same playbook. 

“Colorado successfully pioneered marijuana legalization a decade ago, thanks in part to the Amendment 64 Task Force,” Hickenlooper said in a statement on Thursday. “Federal legalization doesn’t need to start from scratch, and we should prepare for when it arrives.”

The senator’s office said that the bill “would establish a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the development of regulations at the federal level that incorporates many of the lessons learned by these states,” and that the legislation is “a Senate companion to Republican Congressman Dave Joyce’s bipartisan bill in the House.”

“I’m thrilled that the PREPARE Act will be introduced in the Senate, making it not only further bipartisan, but bicameral, and bringing it one step closer to becoming law,” Joyce in the press release on Thursday. “This legislation gives lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the answers they need to effectively engage on cannabis reform, safely and effectively regulate it, and remedy the harms caused by the failed war on cannabis. With those answers, Congress can develop a much-needed federal regulatory framework that not only respects the unique needs, rights, and laws of each state, but also ensures a responsible end to prohibition and a safer future for our communities. I was proud to lead the introduction of this commonsense bill in the House and thank Senator Hickenlooper for advancing it in the Senate. I look forward to continuing to work together to pave the way for more comprehensive reform.”

Despite having control of Congress and the White House, Democrats were unable to get a federal legalization bill over the finish line before next week’s midterm election.

The House of Representatives in April passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would have removed pot from the Controlled Substances Act.

But the Democratic-led Senate has yet to introduce its own version of a legalization bill. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last weekend that the Senate is “very close” to passing a bill that would allow state-legal cannabis retailers to receive financial services from banks. The legislation would also include expungements for marijuana convictions, although it would not legalize pot. 

President Joe Biden last month announced pardons to everyone with federal convictions for marijuana possession, while also expressing his intention to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said at the time.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” the president added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”