Press Releases

Hickenlooper Introduces Bill to Prepare for Marijuana Legalization

Dec 1, 2022

PREPARE Act will lay the groundwork for writing marijuana regulations after legalization by establishing a commission similar to Colorado’s Amendment 64 Task Force

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper introduced the Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) ActThe bill directs the Attorney General to develop a regulatory framework for when the federal government legalizes marijuana.

While it remains illegal at the federal level, many states have followed Colorado in legalizing and regulating the sale and use of marijuana. The PREPARE Act would establish a fair, honest, and publicly transparent process for the development of regulations at the federal level that incorporates many of the lessons learned by these states. Hickenlooper’s bill is a Senate companion to Republican Congressman Dave Joyce’s bipartisan bill in the House.

“A decade after Colorado pioneered marijuana legalization, Americans overwhelmingly support the same at the federal level,” said Hickenlooper. “This bipartisan, bicameral framework, based on Colorado’s Amendment 64 Task Force, will replicate our success nationally.”

“I’m thrilled that the PREPARE Act has been introduced in the Senate, making it not only further bipartisan, but bicameral, and bringing it one step closer to becoming law,” said Congressman Dave Joyce. “This legislation gives lawmakers on both sides of the aisle the answers they need to effectively engage on cannabis reform, safely and effectively regulate it, and remedy the harms caused by the failed war on cannabis. With those answers, Congress can develop a much-needed federal regulatory framework 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. I was proud to lead the introduction of this commonsense bill in the House and thank Senator Hickenlooper for advancing it in the Senate. I look forward to continuing to work with him and my fellow Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs in the House to pave the way for more comprehensive reform.”

On December 10, 2012, a month after Colorado voted to legalize marijuana, then-Governor Hickenlooper convened the Amendment 64 Task Force to provide recommendations for the establishment of regulations. Those regulations led to the thriving, safe, marijuana industry in Colorado today. The PREPARE Act would replicate the Amendment 64 Task Force at the federal level.

For text of the bill, click here. For a summary of the bill’s provisions, click here.

Specifically, the bill does the following:

  • Directs the Attorney General to establish a “Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis” to advise on the development of a regulatory framework modeled after existing federal and state regulations for alcohol.
    • A framework would have to account for the unique needs, rights, and laws of each state, and be presented to Congress within one year of enactment of the PREPARE Act. 
    • The regulatory framework would have to include 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; encourage economic opportunity for individuals and small businesses; and develop protections for the hemp industry. 
    • The commission would not have rulemaking authority; its only role would be to develop proposals and make policy recommendations
  • The 24-member commission would include representatives from relevant government agencies and offices, individuals nominated by Senate and House leadership, and individuals nominated by other government agencies.

The PREPARE ACT is supported by: Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR), US Cannabis Council (USCC), City of Denver, National Hispanic Cannabis Council, Black Cannabis Equity Initiative, VS Strategies, Vicente Sederberg LLP, Metric, National Cannabis Industry Association, and Better Organizing to Win Legalization.

“As the nation’s first governor to implement a regulatory structure for cannabis, CPEAR applauds Senator Hickenlooper’s efforts to promote a federal regulatory framework for this burgeoning industry. As an American cash crop, cannabis is now one of the most valuable crops in the nation, making it clear that cannabis consumers, business owners, and patients deserve a transparent process that terminates cannabis prohibition and creates much-needed federal guardrails. CPEAR is proud to represent a group of vast stakeholders and highly regulated industries that want to ensure cannabis reform is carried out correctly, with science and data at the forefront. As Colorado’s first Cannabis Czar, I saw firsthand the unique needs of communities and cities when regulating the plant. CPEAR thanks Senator Hickenlooper for his leadership and looks forward to working together to ensure we get federal cannabis reform done right,” said Andrew Freedman, Executive Director of CPEAR. 

“The Biden administration’s review of cannabis scheduling, midterm ballot measures,  and polling on cannabis decriminalization all signal that the end of cannabis prohibition isn’t just inevitable — it’s imminent. The PREPARE Act would help ensure that the federal government has a plan in place to ensure a smooth and responsible transition to legal cannabis. We commend Sen. Hickenlooper and his counterparts in the House for the forethought and attention reflected in the PREPARE Act’s robust legislative framework, which wisely aims to also address  the unjust consequences of the War on Drugs by developing recommendations on social equity and policies that create economic opportunity for minority entrepreneurs who want to operate in the legal marketplace. The U.S. Cannabis Council will continue to work with Congress to help the nation get ready for the day legal cannabis is the law of the land,” said Khadijah Tribble, CEO of USCC.

“I would like to extend the utmost appreciation, on behalf of the City and County of Denver, to Sen. Hickenlooper for introducing the PREPARE Act, which prompts the much-needed discussion among federal agencies and the regulated community regarding adequate federal cannabis regulation. This bill is a necessary step for a safe and secure post-prohibition market, much like we began with the passage of Amendment 64 here in Colorado 10 years ago, on a federal level. The Prepare Act is a testament to Sen. Hickenlooper’s long-standing leadership on both cannabis and entrepreneurial issues during his time as Mayor and Governor of Colorado and now as U.S. Senator. Denver stands by to add our expertise as needed in this important fact-finding mission to establish the pathway for a much overdue federal legalization plan,” said Erin Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief Strategy Officer to Denver Mayor Hancock.

“With Hispanics making up 18% of the U.S. population, but comprising less than 6% of cannabis business owners, it is clear much work is needed to establish an equitable cannabis business industry in our country. Sen. Hickenlooper’s legislation would allow for a robust, federal discussion about prioritizing social equity in the emerging cannabis economy,” said Antonio Valdez, Executive Director of National Hispanic Cannabis Council.

“This bill is the first step in creating a safe and legal cannabis market on a national level in the United States. The work you did as Governor of Colorado alongside the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative (BCEI) to help our state prepare for and flourish with the legalization of cannabis is highlighted in the framework of this legislation and I enthusiastically support the Prepare Act,” said John Bailey, Founder and Lead Convener of Black Cannabis Equity Initiative.

“Colorado is a leader in cannabis policy, not just because it was one of the first states to legalize, but because it legalized in a responsible and effective manner. As Governor, Sen. Hickenlooper successfully implemented Colorado’s voter-approved legalization law through a wide-ranging and deliberative stakeholder process, which continues to be employed as the system evolves. The PREPARE Act applies that same stakeholder engagement process to facilitate the transition from prohibition to regulation. For decades, the federal government took steps to suppress the evidence surrounding cannabis and quash public discourse about the effectiveness of state and federal prohibition laws. The PREPARE Act proposes an about-face in the federal war on cannabis and an opportunity to clear the air as our country moves forward to develop a safer and more sensible cannabis policy,” said Mason Tvert, Partner at VS Strategies.

“Colorado’s experience has demonstrated that regulating marijuana is not just possible, it’s effective. Leaders in other states and even other countries are visiting Colorado and looking to it for guidance as they consider moving beyond prohibition in their jurisdictions. Likewise, Colorado is learning from the experiences of other states. The PREPARE Act would pull together all those lessons, as well as the knowledge of various experts and stakeholders, to develop a responsible and practicable regulatory framework at the federal level,” said Brian Vicente, Founding Partner at Vicente Sederberg LLP.

“I would like to extend the utmost appreciation, on behalf of Metrc and myself, to Senator Hickenlooper for introducing the PREPARE Act, which prompts the much-needed discussion among federal agencies and the regulated community regarding adequate federal cannabis regulation.” This bill is a necessary step for a safe and secure post-prohibition market, and is a testament to Senator Hickenlooper’s long standing leadership on both cannabis and entrepreneurial issues during his time as Governor of Colorado and now as U.S. Senator. Having served in his Administration as lead cannabis regulator, I can personally attest that the federal government could not have a stronger resource for institutional knowledge on cannabis policy than Senator Hickenlooper,” said Lewis Koski, Chief Strategy Officer of Metrc.

“We applaud the PREPARE Act’s efforts to create an equitable commission that takes into consideration various viewpoints and topics. In particular, we are pleased to see provisions included in the bill that would require the commission to identify the impact of cannabis criminalization, particularly on minority, low income, and veteran communities, the lack of access to the financial sector for cannabis entrepreneurs and industries, and the lack of access to cannabis related research,” said Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association

“It is critical that Congress thoughtfully prepare to regulate the rapidly growing legal consumer marketplace, especially now that the House has twice taken action on the criminalization of cannabis, both times with components to facilitate record expungement and allow the SBA to serve small businesses with the MORE Act. How to properly and efficiently address labeling, advertising, licensing, public health concerns, and other post-prohibition regulatory aspects are crucial components that have yet to be addressed in a bipartisan way and the PREPARE Act can be the vehicle to do just that,” said Justin Strekal of Better Organizing to Win Legalization. 


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