U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., announced plans last week to introduce legislation that would set up a regulatory framework in preparation for federal cannabis legalization.

Hickenlooper’s Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult-Use Regulated Environment (PREPARE) Act is a Senate companion to legislation Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, introduced in the House in April.

“Federal marijuana legalization doesn’t need to start from scratch and we should prepare for it now,” Hickenlooper tweeted Nov. 3. “Today we introduced the PREPARE Act, a bipartisan bill to pave the way for the federal regulation of marijuana once legalization arrives.”

The bill directs the attorney general to develop regulations that would be enacted as soon as the federal government legalizes cannabis.

“I’m thrilled that the PREPARE Act will be introduced in the Senate, making it not only further bipartisan, but bicameral, and bringing it one step closer to becoming law,” Joyce said in a public statement. “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 Sen. Hickenlooper for advancing it in the Senate. I look forward to continuing to work together to pave the way for more comprehensive reform.”

According to Hickenlooper’s Nov. 3 announcement, “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” from the 40 U.S. states that have legalized some form of medical or adult-use cannabis.

“Colorado successfully pioneered marijuana legalization a decade ago, thanks in part to the Amendment 64 Task Force,” Hickenlooper said in a public statement. “Federal legalization doesn’t need to start from scratch, and we should prepare for when it arrives.”

Hickenlooper served as governor of Colorado from 2011 to 2019, and he convened the Amendment 64 Task Force in December 2012, a month after Colorado voters approved adult-use cannabis legalization. The task force was charged with providing recommendations on establishing regulations for the newly legalized industry.

The PREPARE Act would essentially replicate the Amendment 64 Task Force at the federal level, directing the attorney general to establish a “Commission on the Federal Regulation of Cannabis” that would advise on how to develop a regulatory framework for cannabis modeled after existing federal and state rules for the alcohol industry. The 24-member commission would include representatives from relevant government agencies and offices, as well as individuals nominated by Senate and House leadership and other government agencies.

The framework would have to be presented to Congress within one year of the PREPARE Act taking effect, and would have to accommodate each state’s unique needs, rights and laws.

The proposed regulations would also have to include ways to address the disproportionate impact that the war on drugs has had on minority, low-income and veteran communities, as well as encourage access to research and training for medical professionals.

The PREPARE Act also requires the regulatory framework to include protections for the hemp industry, as well as encourage economic opportunity for individuals and small businesses.

A detailed summary of the bill’s provisions can be found here.

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