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Pro-Weed Congresswoman Criticized; Wins GOP Primary Anyway

Having a GOP rep who supports legalization keep her seat— after her opponent attacked her over the issue—is a relief

Rep. Nancy Mace, the GOP House sponsor of a federal Cannabis legalization bill, won against a primary reelection challenge on Tuesday. She defeated an opponent who attacked her marijuana reform position, reports Marijuana Moment.

Mace sponsors the States Reform Act (SRA) to end marijuana prohibition. She handily defeated her opponent in South Carolina, Katie Arrington. Arrington released an attack ad accusing the Congresswoman of being “high” for her focus on pot reform. At one point, Arrington challenged Mace to take a drug test.

The incumbent also succeeded despite attempts by a recently formed anti-legalization political action committee to push her out of Congress. She even survived politically after twice-impeached former President Donald Trump’s MAGA endorsement of her opponent. (Despite Trumpists’ oft-repeated claims of Trump’s sympathies to reform, the defeated insurrectionist never did anything at all to loosen the pot laws during his single four-year term.0

Mace’s home state Republican Party even added insult to injury. They came out against her legalization proposal following its introduction.

SRA Removes Marijuana From Controlled Substances List

The outcome keeps intact a key player in the push for bipartisan reform on the GOP side of the aisle. Meanwhile, the chances of Congress enacting Democratic-led legalization bills remain in question.

Having a Republican representative who has made legalization a priority keep her seat—especially after her opponent attacked her over the issue—comes as a relief to those who support reform.

Mace’s SRA shares many similarities with bills that Democratic House and Senate leadership have worked to get enacted over the years. It recognizes the need for social equity and assisting small businesses. And it also accomplishes a major goal of reformers. It removes weed from the onerous list of prohibited drugs under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

Mace Has Used Medical Marijuana

Congresswoman Mace has personal experience using marijuana a therapeutic treatment. She recently said she’s received assurances that SRA will receive a hearing in the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Her Democratic colleagues, meanwhile, are working to advance competing proposals. These include the House-passed Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. There’s also a separate legalization bill being finalized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

It remains to be seen if that hearing will actually happen this year. But activists are cheering Mace’s primary victory. That’s because it’s an encouraging sign that there’ll be a rare conservative voice advocating Cannabis reform within the Republican Party.

“That’s Rare On The Republican Side”

“Representative Mace has fundamentally changed Republican conversations when it comes to marijuana policy reform,” said Justin Strekal, founder of the BOWL PAC. “As a longtime advocate who has tried for years to make issues of expungements and addressing past harms and promoting small businesses a nonpartisan issue, Representative Mace’s States Reform Act represents a good faith endeavor to constructively engage.”

Maritza Perez, at the Drug Policy Alliance, said “it’s great to have a Republican who’s out there in support of descheduling—somebody who’s a true advocate for marijuana reform that’s rare on the Republican side.”

“I hope that she’s able to convince more of her colleagues on that side of the aisle to join the fight for cannabis reform,” Perez said.

Only Four GOP Co-Sponsors (Cluck, Cluck)

There have been some concerns among reform advocates about the small number of GOP cosponsors on SRA—just four (including one who unfortunately passed away this year).

None of these chickens have had the cojones to add their names since its introduction in November. That’s despite Mace’s continual work to build support. Observers suspect tension between Rep. Mace and the GOP co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio.

Joyce is sponsor of the separate Common Sense Cannabis Reform Act. Oddly, he meanwhile opposes the Democratic MORE Act. He said his own plan is “the only Republican-led comprehensive cannabis reform bill that does not include” tax and equity provisions. Joyce’s bill would simply deschedule marijuana. Mace’s bill, in contrast, does have some tax and social equity components.

Repubs Waiting For The Primaries To Be Over?

But there’s another line of thinking. According to this school of thought, GOP members are probably reluctant to go out on a marijuana limb. They’re holding out on signing onto Mace’s bill until they prevail in their own primary elections this year.

Mace’s victory in deep-red South Carolina, despite her strong advocacy on the issue, may indicate other Republican Congress critters are too skittish about pot. They’re likely too concerned about how coming out in support of legalization through the SRA could impact their reactionary conservative ”base.”

Recent polling, after all, has found that legalization enjoys majority, bipartisan support. In fact, most Americans say they’d be more likely to support politicians that back pot reform.

Randal Meyer, executive director of the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, said Mace’s victory is significant. “Republicans should be paying attention to not only the polling and the changes in cultural attitudes—but now the actual electoral results,” Meyer said.

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