This article was originally published on The Fresh Toast and appears here with permission.
While Washington is often seen as more divided and polarized as ever, Mace still believes it is possible to reach across party lines to get important legislation passed.
Congresswoman Nancy Mace is in the final stretch of her first re-election campaign as a Republican representative in a district she herself calls a purple swing district. Where many other members of congress who are up for re-election have toted party lines on all subjects, Rep. Mace set herself apart from some of her Republican colleagues once she introduced the States Reform Act (SRA), a cannabis legalization bill that she says is the best of its kind and she believes is the only one that has a real shot at becoming law.
Mace is a unique Republican official in a political climate where it is sometimes considered dangerous to have opinions that vary from those of the powerful party base. In an interview with The Fresh Toast, she described herself as “a republican who is very pro baby, pro gun, pro gay and pro pot.” She recently won her primary by 8 points, where she explained finding common ground on issues as one key to her success.
This common ground is something that gave representative Mace some national media attention recently, when she, a Republican, commended President Biden, a Democrat, for pardoning those convicted of federal level for basic marijuana possession, as we reported in October. Saying positive remarks about the leading member of an opposing party is not as commonplace as it once was, but it is this bipartisan spirit, and the need to work together that Rep. Mace sees it as a key to the States Reforms Act’s potential success.
In regards to Biden’s recent pardon declaration of nonviolent marijuana offenders convicted of simple possession, Mace told us, “There’s still more to go yet, but it’s a good first step headed in the right direction, and something I think all of us on both sides need to be supporting.”
Mace expressed that the President’s pardons were a “nod to Federalism” in that these pardons free inmates on a federal level and encourage, but do not force, individual states to do the same. This distinction of creating laws, but allowing states the freedom to shape their own individual marijuana policies they think work best for their constituents is, according to Mace, imperative to finding bipartisan support for a cannabis bill like this.
“When you inject federalism and the rights of states on this particular issue, this is where we can find the most agreement on both sides of the aisle,” said Mace. “Because there is no way that you can do this and get it done if you don’t have republicans on board, and democrats alike.”
Now that Biden has issued these pardons the big question is what will happen next, on a federal level, to marijuana classification and scheduling. Mace, like the rest of America, is awaiting these next steps and written declarations. “What we’re hearing is that he cannot de-schedule but it’s going to be a rescheduling,” she said, “and then, what is congress’ role?”
Once more is known on this anticipated “rescheduling” or cannabis, Mace and other lawmakers can begin to know how the bill, and the legalization effort in general, can move forward. Mace is optimistic that this announcement and further progress can happen by the end of the year. “Whatever they decide, whether it’s 30 or 60 days form now — we are hearing they want to do it before the end of year — when we get the details and the fine print on the executive order and how far it goes on the rescheduling side of it, it’s what role does congress play in the next steps.”
When it comes to congress’s role, one key element of the SRA that she points out is its bipartisan spirit, and to her, that is crucial if any marijuana bill hopes to be the bill that becomes law. “There are other bills out there that cannot pass both chambers, that cannot get bipartisan support. Where taxes may be too high, or they’re missing a regulatory framework.” One of these “other bills,” as we have reported, is a bill penned by Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Cory Booker named the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.
While Washington is often seen as more divided and polarized as ever, Mace still believes it is possible to reach across party lines to get important legislation passed. She acknowledged that regardless of the outcome of midterm elections, she will likely need at least 10 republicans to be on board with this bill. According to Mace, it’s about finding Republicans who get it, and “who are the 10 that can make this happen.”
In our conversation, she pointed to herself as an example of how a bill like this can garner the support it needs on both sides of the aisle, and become law. “You’ve got to be able to work together with people,” she said. “I mean I’m a republican from South Carolina putting forth non-partisan legislation that’s reasonable, responsible and fair, and safe.”
When asked if she thinks being anti-legalization or against cannabis in general will eventually make politicians in today’s world less electable, she said, “The longer we wait to do anything at the federal level and the states that are dragging on this issue, the worse it’s going to get. The less support those elected officials are going to have.”
She also mentioned a growing group of voters who are incredibly passionate on this issue. She can even see people voting on this issue just as some groups vote on other major issues like gun control and abortion can sway voters to one side and bring them to the polls with vigor. “There are coalitions that vote on very specific issues,” she said. “And I do believe this is a growing coalition of people who weren’t as vocal maybe in years past but are becoming more vocal, because the frustration is palpable.”
Congresswoman Mace is looking forward to the next steps, including a hearing with the oversight committee. This bipartisan hearing is set to take place in November after the election.