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Federal Marijuana Legalization Bills Introduced

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marijuana reform bill legislature session legislative billsBy Phillip Smith

Two congressmen from two states where marijuana is already legal under state law today filed two separate bills to legalize marijuana at the federal level. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced a bill that would allow states to legalize marijuana without fear of federal intervention, while Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a bill that would tax marijuana at the federal level, in addition to any state taxes. The bills were not yet available on congressional web sites as of this afternoon.

Polis’s Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act (HR 1013) removes marijuana from the schedule set by the Controlled Substances Act; transitions marijuana oversight from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Agency to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and regulates marijuana like alcohol by inserting language into the section of the US code governing “intoxicating liquors.”

“Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children,” said Polis. “While President Obama and the Justice Department have allowed the will of voters in states like Colorado and 22 other jurisdictions to move forward, small business owners, medical  marijuana patients, and others who follow state laws still live with the fear that a new administration – or this one—could reverse course and turn them into criminals. It is time for us to replace the failed prohibition with a regulatory system that works and let states and municipalities decide for themselves if they want, or don’t want, to have legal marijuana within their borders.”

Blumenauer’s Marijuana Tax Revenue Act (HR 1014)would, after federal legalization, impose a federal excise tax on the sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes as well as apply an occupational tax for marijuana businesses. The bill would establish civil and criminal penalties for those who fail to comply, like those in place for the tobacco industry.

The bill also requires the IRS to produce periodic studies of the marijuana industry and to issue recommendations to Congress. It phases in an excise tax on the sale by a producer (generally the grower) to the next stage of production (generally the processor creating the useable product).  This tax is initially set at 10% and rises over time to 25% as the legal market displaces the black market.  Medical marijuana is exempt from this tax.

“It’s time for the federal government to chart a new path forward for marijuana.” said Blumenauer.  “Together these bills create a federal framework to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, much like we treat alcohol and tobacco. The federal prohibition of marijuana has been a failure, wasting tax dollars and ruining countless lives. As more states move to legalize marijuana as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Alaska have done, it’s imperative the federal government become a full partner in building a workable and safe framework.”

The federal bills come as marijuana is increasingly accepted in the US. Now, nearly two-thirds of Americans live in a state or jurisdiction that allows for some form of legal marijuana use. Four states—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington—and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use, while 23 others allow for medical marijuana. Eleven more states have passed laws allowing for the use of low-THC cannabis products to treat specified medical conditions.

By now, nearly half (46%) of all people 18 and over have tried marijuana at least once, and in the past few years, public opinion polls have consistently found support for legalization at or above 50%. But while states and localities have taken the lead in finding ways to accommodate legal marijuana, the federal government continues to not allow criminalize marijuana, but to classify it as among the most dangerous illegal drugs.

The Obama administration has taken a relatively laissez-faire approach to medical marijuana and legal marijuana in the states, but that is a matter of policy, not law. And as long as federal marijuana prohibition remains on the books, policy can change with a new administration, or even if this one decides to take a different tack.

The congressional bills were met with approval by drug reform movement groups.

“As more state marijuana legalization laws come on board it’s increasingly important for federal policy to catch up,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. “The Obama administration’s enforcement approach over the past few years has created some room for Colorado and Washington to implement their laws and show the world that legalization works. And we even saw the Republican-controlled Congress vote last year to stop the DEA from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. Now it’s time to fully and officially end the federal criminalization of marijuana so that states can move ahead with full certainty that the DEA won’t be able to step in whenever the drug warriors that run the agency feel like it.”

“Cops have better things to worry about than the recreational habits of responsible, nonviolent adults,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), a former Maryland narcotics officer and now executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals opposed to the drug war. “And dispensary owners have better things to worry about than whether the federal government is going to arrest them and/or seize their assets for acting in accordance with state law.”

“These bills would regulate and tax marijuana, taking cultivation and sales out of the underground market and allowing it to be controlled by legitimate businesses under the close watch of authorities. Marijuana would be grown in licensed facilities instead of national forests and basements in the suburbs. It would be sold in stores that create good jobs and generate tax revenue, instead of on the street where it benefits cartels and criminals,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policy for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“Congress has been ignoring our broken and outdated marijuana laws for decades,” Riffle continued. “Their failure to let go of prohibition is causing serious problems for state governments and interfering in the lives of countless Americans. It’s time for our federal representatives to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol and most people think it should be treated that way. Members who consider it unthinkable to return to alcohol prohibition need to ask themselves why they are clinging to the prohibition of a less harmful substance.”

The bills are there. Now it’s time to see whether Congress will act on them.

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  • Dave Jensen

    crap…five months later from your comment and damned if you’re not proven right. The dirty sons a bitches, hope they burn in psychedelic despair.

  • Too late.

    The Colorado Prohibitionist Politicians — being lobbied by the Greedy Big $$ Dispensary Cartels — are CURRENTLY “cracking down” on Private Patients and Caregivers with new criminal legislation, attacking and attempting to usurp the entire Medical Marijuana amendment, all for their own personal profit and insatiable tax revenues.

  • Hot SS on SS action !!

  • “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” — att.Marie Antoinette

  • “The demand for weed is kind of unelastic”

    True. Something that the Pot Pimp Propaganda fails to acknowledge. Everyone who wanted to get high prior to these government commercialization schemes was already getting high. Pot is and was available at any high school in any town in the U$A. Charlatan Pot Pimps promote the nonsense that alcoholics and drunkards will all switch to pot, if it were only legal, some even claiming that hard drug use would also decline if junkies and crackheads could just purchase a legal taxed joint for $5 at a dispensary.

    Colorado’s wildly under-performing pot tax revenues are never going to climb, they will only continue to fall sharply as the novelty of overpriced, overtaxed, overregulated warehouse schwag from some greedy profiteering dispensary cartel pig wears off like the bad perfume of a cheap whore. Self-respecting stoners either grow their own or obtain it from a friend, relative or acquaintance who grows — better bud, better prices, better people, and TAX FREE.

    “This will be because legal growers have less risk, and can therefore compete better with the black market.”

    Wrong. The “black market” — the same friends, family and relatives that every stoner in the USA has scored from since they began getting high — will ALWAYS beat the Government over-regulated and over-taxed market. The overhead of private home growers is far less, and always will be.

    The “black markets” for Alcohol and Tobacco in the U$A — which suffer far less regulation and taxation than Colorado’s clusterf*ck — is BILLIONS of $$ every year. BILLIONS with a B!

    Unless Pot is FULLY DECRIMINALIZED — ALL Pot Crimes removed from law — and Legalized Like Tomatoes or Oregano, the “black market” and the prison industrial complex that feeds off of it will continue to thrive in perpetuity.

  • Legalize Marijuana Like Tomatoes !! … or continue with decades of Criminal Prohibition under the guise of Government Controlled Commercialization SCAMpaigns.

  • “baby steps” that the politically clueless timid bongsuckers bargained for.

  • Kathleen Chippi

    F off with your Dems or your GOP–I have never voted for a R and since 911 I have not voted for a D because it was clear to me that both parties are really one owned by the same global corporations. Anyone who thinks in 2015 there is a difference is an ignorant or a traitor…….everything else you have said isn’t worth further response.

  • Kathleen Chippi

    –the Polis bill would trump all sates pot laws….taking CO miles backwards…

  • Check out this clown who claims that Colorado “fully legalized” marijuana via A64 —

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/cannabist/chart_new_study_says_marijuana_is_114_times_less_deadly_than_alcohol/#comment-1878798049

  • You’re basically talking about price elasticity of demand. The demand for weed is kind of unelastic. You can lower prices a long way, and since it’s unlikely to get people to use more/smoke more (most smokers already smoke all they want). For this reason, we will see a lot more weed on the scene until the supply matches the demand at a much lower price level than we have now. This will be because legal growers have less risk, and can therefore compete better with the black market. As legal weed price becomes cheaper than black market, people will buy the legal weed. This will mean even more supply from legal growers.

    Since, as you put it, the amount of pot being smoked stays pretty steady, then an increased supply with steady demand will mean lower prices.

  • Former Senator… And if you don’t like him, why not run someone who is more reform minded against him? Maybe you could find a Republican with whom you agree on legalization.

    Good luck.