Representative Nancy Mace is sipping rosé from a can on the second level of the Cannon House Office Building, across Independence Avenue from the United States Capitol, while her Havanese, Liberty, sits next to her in a leather chair. Mace discusses why cannabis should be legal as the sun sets over The District.
“There are a million reasons to repeal federal prohibition, and the only place where it’s contentious is up here,” Mace adds. “It’s a hugely popular concept.” ‘WTF, D.C., why haven’t you done this yet?’ says America.
The 44-year-old freshman Congresswoman from South Carolina’s coastal swing district, which stretches from Charleston to Hilton Head, presented the States Reform Act in November, which would eliminate the federal government’s 85-year prohibition on marijuana. Mace is far from the first politician to propose a cannabis legalization measure, though getting one passed by both chambers of Congress has proven impossible.
But Mace already buy weed online and has one of the world’s most powerful conservative organizations, Charles Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, on her side. And now she has the endorsement of one of the world’s largest corporations: Amazon.
In June, the retail behemoth stated that marijuana would be excluded from the majority of its staff drug tests, and it began advocating for its legalization. After meeting with Mace six months later, the company has stated that it will support her States Reform Act. “They don’t want to sell it,” Mace says, emphasizing that the support is based on jobs. “It increases the hiring pool by around 10%.” “This bill offers comprehensive reform that speaks to the emergence of a bipartisan consensus to abolish the federal prohibition of cannabis,” says Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy.
Philosopher King: Charles Koch, the libertarian millionaire who formed a political advocacy group, will spend millions of dollars lobbying for legalization.
Forbes’ Guerin Blask
Mace’s measure is the latest attempt to overturn the federal government’s marijuana prohibition, but it is the first from a Republican. The Safe Banking Act, which is sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Ed Perlmutter, both Democrats, and would offer cannabis entrepreneurs broader access to the banking system, has passed the House five times but was omitted from the federal defense budget bill in December. Last summer, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker suggested legislation to legalize marijuana, but it has yet to be formally submitted. The More Act, introduced by Representative Jerry Nadler, passed the House but has yet to be taken up by the Senate.
Meanwhile, Koch’s political advocacy group, Americans For Prosperity, has endorsed Mace’s new measure wholeheartedly. According to AFP’s chief government affairs officer Brent Gardner, the group will spend millions lobbying “to make this the most highly resourced effort in the history of this issue” to achieve Mace’s vision of legalization: ending federal prohibition, instituting a low federal excise tax, regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol, and allowing states to create their own laws. Mace and her pro-business bill are also adored by the cannabis sector. (In comparison to Schumer’s 10% tax, she suggests a 3% federal excise tax, which would yield an estimated $3 billion in yearly tax revenue by 2030.) Nonetheless, her bill is unlikely to become law, and Mace is not under the notion that its passage is a foregone conclusion. Her overarching goal is to enlist the support of as many Republicans as possible in support of cannabis reform, demonstrating to the GOP that legalization is a viable political issue in 2022 and beyond.
“It’s American, it’s bringing people together,” Mace says. “Animals, Britney Spears, and cannabis are three things that truly bring people together.” That’s the three things I’ve discovered that have struck a chord with the American people and that, like apple pie, can bring people together at the dinner table.”
Despite this, the federal government has classified marijuana as one of the world’s most harmful and addictive substances for decades. However, 36 states already allow for medicinal marijuana use, while 18 states allow anybody over the age of 21 to purchase marijuana. Despite the difficulties of operating a federally illegal business, Cowen believes that legal sales in the United States will reach $25 billion in 2021, and that the market would grow to a $100 billion juggernaut by 2030.
Cannabis, which is now classified as a Schedule I substance with LSD and heroin, would be removed from the Controlled Substances Act and regulated similarly to alcohol under Mace’s States Reform Act. With the exception of medical usage, the federal government would enforce a countrywide 21-year-old age limit for cannabis consumption. States would be able to create their own regulations and laws about cannabis under the measure, including barring sales and usage within state borders.
High Priorities: In addition to the $3 billion in tax money, Mace’s plan aims to create jobs and address some of the racial imbalances that have resulted from the drug war.
Boris Jordan, the billionaire chairman of Curaleaf, a Massachusetts-based cannabis dispensary with 125 locations in 25 states and plans to expand to the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, supports Mace’s measure. Jordan claims that Jordan’s approach is “far more business-friendly” than Schumer’s. The bill’s low tax rate and the opening of interstate commerce, he argues, are two of the bill’s strongest features. Currently, marijuana cannot cross state lines lawfully. “I’m pleased about it because it’s the voice of reason in Washington,” he explains.
Mace has a knack for pleasing — and provoking — people on both sides of the political divide. She’s a typical Republican in many ways: she supports guns, low taxes, and free trade, but she despises Dr. Fauci and worries that socialists are plotting to take over America. Similarly, after the January 6 uprising, she urged Republicans to “rebuild our party” and resisted moves to reverse President Biden’s victory. She did, however, vote to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from Republican leadership and to oppose the formation of a bipartisan commission to examine the Capitol incident.
She’s also known for squabbles with Republicans such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whom she refers to as “performance artists” rather than legislators. Greene tweeted in November that Mace is “the trash of the GOP conference” after Mace chastised Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, for labeling Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Democrat from Minnesota, a terrorist. Greene was called bat-shit insane by Mace, who responded with a sequence of emojis—a bat, a dung, and a clown—on Twitter.
“They want to have Twitter followers,” Mace says as she sits in her office next to a stack of books, including her own, In the Company of Men: A Woman at The Citadel, and Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline, a novel set at the institution. “They want to say the most ridiculous things to get TV interviews and then raise a lot of money, but they don’t do anything with it.”
The Palmetto State Representative, on the other hand, has toned down her criticism of Trump. She claims that his “policies were phenomenal,” but that his “rhetoric” is “an concern.” In reaction, Trump added Mace to his “enemies list,” calling for “good and smart America First Republican Patriots” to run against him and 11 other Republicans in Congress in November.
“Cannabis is not a black-and-white problem,” says Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve. “Cannabis legalization has also done well in conservative states.”
Nancy Mace, on the other hand, has been well-prepared for battle. She was the first woman to graduate from The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets in 1999. She was born in Fort Bragg to an Army major and a schoolteacher. She created her own PR and marketing agency after receiving a master’s degree in journalism and communications, and then switched to politics. In 2015, she worked for Trump’s campaign and eventually became a South Carolina statehouse representative before being elected to Congress in 2020.
Mace’s tenacity marked her journey to pot. Mace was raped by a classmate when she was a 16-year-old high school student in 1994. On her 17th birthday, she dropped out of high school and began working at a nearby Waffle House. Her despair and anxiety were treated with prescription medication, but it didn’t work.
Mace credits cannabis with helping her cope with depression after being raped as a youngster, and she is the first woman to graduate from the Citadel.
Paula Illingworth/Associated Press
“It made me want to put a stop to everything,” she says.
She then began smoking marijuana for almost a year to help with her anxiety. “It helped me get through some really tough moments,” Mace says, emphasizing that no one should self-medicate or take medicinal marijuana without a prescription.
Mace’s bill also aims to address some of the injustices that have arisen as a result of America’s drug war, which disproportionately impacts people of color. She calculates that if her bill were to pass, the government would save about $600 million over five years if 2,800 federal convicts convicted for non-violent cannabis offences were released and another 1,100 or so persons who are incarcerated for comparable crimes each year were not.
STATE CANNABIS LAWS
She claims, “This has been a very lengthy, extremely unpleasant, expensive, and harmful federal conflict.” “And when you look at the numbers, you’ll notice that there are significant differences between the Black and Brown populations and the white community.” [Ending federal prohibition] would bring more opportunity and parity, as well as terminate and cure some of the war on drugs’ faults.”
This includes the person in charge. Legalization of marijuana has always been a progressive topic, but Mace wants to turn it into a Republican talking point. Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, a Florida-based company with 163 dispensaries in eight states, applauds Mace’s strategy. “Cannabis is not a black-and-white problem,” Rivers argues. “Cannabis reform has consistently performed well in conservative states.” It sends a strong statement that marijuana isn’t partisan.”
Mace’s bill is also being hailed as a lifeline for cannabis cultivators. The bill’s stance on free commerce, allowing corporations to import and export marijuana, according to Randal Meyer, a lobbyist and member of the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, which includes AFP, would be a bonanza for U.S. growers.
Meyer claims that “American cannabis is the most valued cannabis in the world.” “We’re sitting on a cash crop that we don’t sell to people willing to spend four or five times what American customers would pay for the same quantity.”
Despite all of this momentum, Mace recognizes that the States Reform Act is unlikely to be introduced before the November elections, but her goal is to demonstrate a “proof of concept” that there are enough Republican votes in Congress to pass substantial reform.
When asked what it means that marijuana is now more popular in red states than President Trump—74 percent of Mississippians voted for the state’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, compared to nearly 58 percent for Trump—she says it’s a signal to Republicans that they need to get on board with legalization.
“It indicates you’re full of shite if you don’t do it,” Mace explains. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it.” And if you’re anti-marijuana, you’re not obligated to use it. It won’t make your state legalize it. However, if it is lawful in your state, we will tax and control it.”