As advocates push for congressional action on Democratic-led marijuana legalization bills in the House and Senate, a Republican congresswoman who’s championing an alternative reform measure says she has received assurances that there will be a hearing on her proposal even as a minority member of the chamber.
And she also said that recently internal polling she’s done for her reelection campaign shows voters in her district are on her side when it comes to cannabis even as her primary election challenger and her own state party attack her reform efforts.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) spoke about the path forward for her States Reform Act (SRA) during an interview published on Thursday with the Psychoactive podcast hosted by longtime legalization advocate and Drug Policy Alliance founder Ethan Nadelmann.
There was earlier reporting about Mace receiving assurances that Democratic leaders would hold a hearing on her bill. But when asked whether that was contingent on a “yes” vote for a separate legalization bill—House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY) Marijuana Opportunity, Expungement and Reinvestment (MORE) Act—the congresswoman said there was “no quid pro quo.”
“Personally, I want to respect the process and MORE is going to come up again and let Democrats do MORE Act. It’ll die in the Senate,” she said. “And so when that’s done, we will do our hearing, and there was nothing done in exchange for it. I just made the ask and we’re making it happen.”
The congresswoman didn’t say when exactly she expects the hearing on her proposal, but it appears she expects it to happen sometime after a possible House floor vote on the MORE Act. Drug policy and civil rights groups sent a letter this week urging House leaders to schedule that vote to happen sometime this month.
Meanwhile, Mace also said she’s been talking to senators about “having a companion bill” to her legislation filed in the other chamber.
“We’re talking to a couple of different offices about that,” she said. “I tend to lean in on issues. And again, for some reason, I think there’s a reluctance even in my party, in my state, of folks to lean in on these kinds of things.”
Mace declined to say specifically which senators might be willing to sponsor a companion version, of her legislation except to say in response to a question from Nadelmann that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who represents a state that was an early adopter of legalization, is “not on our radar for that—we’re looking at other offices.”
She also waded into the controversy of both her state Republican party opposing her congressional reform bill, as well as her primary challenger, former South Carolina Rep. Katie Arrington (R), attacking Mace over her marijuana advocacy, accusing her of being “high” in a campaign ad.
“It’s quite bizarre, quite frankly,” Mace said. “Our voters are uniquely astute on policy and on the issues, and we do march to the beat of our own drum. They don’t want someone who’s going to toe the party line. They want someone who’s fiscally conservative, socially moderate on these issues.”
“So it’s interesting to see the kind of campaign that’s coming after and the attacks and I’m like, ‘Okay, if that’s what you really think, please talk more. Please tell everybody that’s what that’s where you stand.’”
Mace has data to back up support for cannabis reform in the district she represents in Congress, she said. A recent internal poll focusing on issues related to her reelection campaign asked voters about whether states should be given the autonomy to enact legalization and the congresswoman said the issue proved to be “extremely popular, and more wildly popular than I thought.”
“It’s surprising that there’s so much pushback. And, you know, the ten percent of people that are strongly opposed to it, well, they don’t vote on the issue,” she said. “I just don’t understand because some people think I’m controversial or take risks. I don’t need to, but I just—you know, we need normal humans that are fiscally conservative, like don’t waste my money, and are socially modern.”
With respect to the South Carolina Republican Party coming out against Mace’s SRA, she said the head of the organization clearly “didn’t read the bill.”
“If that’s your position, you clearly didn’t read the bill and don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “In the state of South Carolina—bright red South Carolina—it is Republicans who are leading cannabis reforms in our state. They did CBD and hemp [reform]. And hopefully, cross my fingers, they’re going to get medical cannabis move through.”
The South Carolina Senate cleared a medical marijuana legalization bill last month, and it now heads to the House for consideration. Mace joined state legislators in Columbia to advocate for the policy change in January.
Back in Congress, Mace’s bill is not just competing with Nadler’s MORE Act, which cleared the House in a historic first in 2020 and has again cleared his panel this session, but also with forthcoming legalization legislation from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and colleagues that he says he expects to formally unveil in April.
Outside of marijuana, Nadelmann also asked the congresswoman about another drug policy issue that’s emerging in localities, states and even Congress: psychedelics.
She said that while she hasn’t “delved deeply into the issue,” she does have a friend who’s a military veteran who participated in a study into the therapeutic potential of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I am still learning about the issue and some of the opportunities out there,” she said. “But again, these things need to be studied. We need to be able to do this kind of research and understand the benefits—the positives and the negatives, what the outcomes could be—because some of the pharmaceuticals that are out there, some of the drugs you can get prescribed have such high addiction rates, and it sometimes can exacerbate PTSD and can exacerbate suicide rates. And so I think everything should be on the table.”
“If it can make you feel better and reduce the rate of suicide when you come home from war, from combat, then everything should be on the table,” the congresswoman said. “We should do right by our veterans and find ways for them to have a higher quality of life. They willing to take a bullet for our country, the least we can do is help them they come home.”