Let’s Get Lit: Rolling Out the Red Carpet for a Post-Prohibition Era

April 20, or 4/20, is a significant day for cannabis consumers and advocates.  Thursday marks marijuana culture’s annual high holiday, 4/20, as a cannabis-forward celebration surrounding marijuana education, social justice, economic equality, diversity, and responsible consumption.  Many brands use this occasion to bring the community together with the shared enjoyment of cannabis, festivals, food, music, and new product launches or discounted items.   

The 4/20 holiday is also a chance to amplify the benefits of cannabis and educate the public, which can help consumers and lawmakers to make better, more informed decisions and policies, respectively, surrounding the plant.  

Marijuana is now legal for adults in 21 states and Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 38 states.  Colorado led the way, becoming the first state to authorize adult-use marijuana sales 10 years ago.  However, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  

There is reason to be optimistic, though, on this 420 holiday: Lawmakers are laying the groundwork for what a post-prohibition America could look like under a federal regulatory regime.  The Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment Act (PREPARE) would establish a commission to study a prompt and plausible pathway to regulate cannabis.  Think of this as a “gateway” to federal legalization, which has bipartisan support.  The bill was introduced by Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH), along with co-sponsor representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and Brian Mast (R-FL). 

The commission’s role would be to make recommendations related to cannabis policy, although it would not have rulemaking authority to institute new policies.  The commission would develop proposals and make policy recommendations concerning: 

  • Ways to remedy the disproportionate impact cannabis prohibition has had on minority, low-income, and veteran communities; 
  • Encourage research and training access by medical professionals; and 
  • Support economic opportunity for individuals and small businesses.  

Colorado’s cannabis legalization program, deemed a pioneer in the successful implementation of legal pot, has been emulated by other states.  The PREPARE Act would replicate Colorado’s Amendment 64 (passed by voters in 2012) and develop a regulatory framework modeled after The Centennial State.  

Colorado, my adopted state, has had a regulated cannabis market for a decade, and that existing knowledge and experience should be leveraged to the largest extent possible in designing a federal regulatory framework.  The federal government must design an architecture along with rules 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 and consumers.  Happy 4/20 holiday.