How did cannabis become illegal in the first place?
For many years, farmers in the United States grew hemp for its fiber content. Historically, it was Harry J. Anslinger, who took control of the newly-formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, that demonized marijuana as a “violent,” “insanity-producing” drug.
In 1937, Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act which effectively began the era of hemp prohibition. The tax and licensing regulations of the act made hemp cultivation difficult for American farmers. From 1937 to the late 1960's, the U.S. government understood and acknowledged that industrial hemp and marijuana were distinct varieties of the Cannabis plant.
In 1970, hemp was officially outlawed for any use and no longer recognized as distinct from marijuana after the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. The Act grouped marijuana with heroin in the most restrictive class, Schedule I, reserved for drugs with a “high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use” and a “lack of accepted safety.”
“Legalize it, don’t criticize it”
On Wednesday, November 20th, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10 in bipartisan favor of the bill H.R. 3884 - The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019. This is the first time in history a congressional committee passed a bill in favor of legalizing marijuana at the federal level.
The MORE Act would end federal cannabis prohibition by removing the plant from the Controlled Substances Act. The bill — first introduced in July by New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) — would also impose a five percent federal cannabis sales tax (to be reinvested in the communities most disadvantaged by prohibition), legalize veteran access to medical cannabis, expunge the records of federal cannabis convictions, and provide incentives for states to enact their own cannabis expungement policies.
What’s next - Legislation 101 and prognosis
But don’t sing a victory just yet. The bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law. The president has the authority to veto legislation passed by Congress.
The bill H.R. 3884 could very well be received favorably in the House, which is Democrat-controlled, however, the Senate, which is Republican-controlled, is expected to be a much more significant obstacle in the path to federal legislation.
In addition, it isn't likely the bill will be signed into law by President Donald Trump, who has openly opposed pro-legalization legislation, even if it ended up on his desk. He even donated a generous portion of his salary in 2019 for a promotional campaign highlighting the negative effects of marijuana use.
Good news is ... the presidential election is just around the corner!
To date, only 11 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Medical marijuana, prescribed by physicians, is legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. (The North American Cannabis Report September 2019 by Prohibition Partners, P.27) In 2020, there are six states currently trying to get a recreational marijuana initiative or amendment onto their ballots.
Even though it is hard to predict when cannabis will be legalized on a federal level, there are key drivers for removing cannabis from Schedule 1 of the CSA including recognition that cannabis prosecution disproportionately impacts minorities, legalization that can reduce opioid addiction and deaths, as well as health concerns related to the “vaping apocalypse,” cannabis tax revenue is an obvious attraction to local authorities.
So, why does Vanguard Scientific care?
The US is the world’s largest cannabis market despite not having legalized cannabis at the federal level. In 2019, legal cannabis in the US generated approximately US$9.7 billion in sales. According to the U.S. Cannabis Report 2019 Industry Outlook “total legal sales of cannabis in current legal states are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14% over the next six years, reaching nearly $30 billion by 2025. Annual sales of medical cannabis are projected to grow at a 17% CAGR through 2025, to an estimated $13.1 billion by 2025.”
As the US and international market opportunities continue to grow, Vanguard Scientific will be at the forefront of the industry by bringing the best end-to-end solutions to produce the finest quality, most valued oils and extracts abiding by both industry regulations and government legislation.