By Aaron Houston, Executive Director, Students For Sensible Drug Policy
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Officials with Students for Sensible Drug Policy today joined Congressmen Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in announcing the introduction of the most sweeping proposed reforms ever to be advanced in Congress related marijuana legalization.
This historic effort includes the introduction of legislation by Rep. Polis that will end federal prohibition of marijuana and regulate it similarly to alcohol, deferring to states that decide to legalize marijuana. Companion legislation by Rep. Blumenauer that would create an excise tax for marijuana will also be introduced. Additionally, a new “Sensible Drug Policy Working Group” in Congress will be announced that brings together Members of Congress, their staff members, and advocates to help forge a new path forward in regulating marijuana. The group will also announce a new report by Congressmen Polis and Blumenauer entitled “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy.”
While a previous marijuana legalization bill by former Congressman Barney Frank in 2011 would have significantly altered the nation’s marijuana laws, that bill would not have set up the kind of regulatory and tax structure as the one introduced today.
The bill introduced today would treat marijuana similarly to alcohol, closely modeling the Webb-Kenyon Act that covers state-based control of alcohol laws. It would grant states the explicit authority to fully tax and regulate marijuana, and the federal law would protect the states’ rights to do that through responsible regulations. States could also decide to continue prohibiting marijuana under the new legislation.
“This state-based approach to marijuana legalization is appealing to conservatives, especially as GOP leaders in Washington struggle to find ways to balance different sides of the party,” said Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “This could even be a Nixon-goes-to-China moment sometime in the next few years.”
“Most people don’t know that many states continued to ban the alcohol trade decades following the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933. Mississippi continued to outright ban alcohol until 1966 and Kansas banned point-of-consumption sales until 1987,” Houston said. “This bill would institute the same system. States could allow it and regulate if they want to or they can continue to ban it.”
Houston also emphasized the potential opportunity the bill provides to politicians who want to appeal to young voters up for grabs. “This is the number one issue that excites young people,” Houston said. “Especially because youth are disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition, this is a special moment for our movement.”
Students for Sensible Drug Policy is the largest organization in the world dedicated to ending the war on drugs, with chapters on more than 200 campuses around the globe. At heart, SSDP is a grassroots organization, led by a student-run board of directors who oversee the work of our professional staff in Washington, D.C. We create change bringing together students of all political and ideological stripes to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policy.