Proposed Laws Would End Federal War on Pot
Two Democratic congressmen introduced bills yesterday that would drastically reform federal policy on marijuana.
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis introduced The Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, which would allow states to choose whether they want to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol and tobacco. Oregon Rep. Earl Bluemenauer’s bill is The Marijuana Tax Equity Act, which would establish a federal marijuana excise tax.
Polis’ legislation would completely remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and take marijuana enforcement responsibilities away from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Those responsibilities would fall to the renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms and Explosives. The law also requires growers to purchase federal permits and clearly distinguishes those who cultivate marijuana for personal use from those who intend to sell their crops.
“This legislation doesn’t force any state to legalize marijuana, but Colorado and the 18 other jurisdictions that have chosen to allow marijuana for medical or recreational use deserve the certainty of knowing that federal agents won’t raid state-legal businesses,” Polis said in a statement on his website. “Congress should simply allow states to regulate marijuana as they see fit and stop wasting federal tax dollars on the failed drug war.”
Bluemenauer’s bill would levy a 50 percent tax on the first sale of legally grown marijuana, which is usually between the grower and processor. It also establishes occupational taxes for marijuana industry workers and requires the IRS to produce ongoing studies of the industry, making recommendations to Congress when tax adjustments are warranted.
New Guide for Reform
Coinciding with the introduction of the bills, Polis and Bluemenauer issued a policy brief titled The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy. In it, the congressmen argue that growing support for marijuana legalization will create more conflict between states and the federal government unless Congress acts soon.
“In a time of transition for marijuana policy, the federal policy framework regarding marijuana use should be addressed to reduce confusion, uncertainty and conflicting government action,” the brief states. “Maintaining the status quo creates an inconsistent legal environment with law enforcement resources wasted and potential tax revenues lost.”
“Only Congress has the power to unravel this mess. It is past time it does so.”
The brief calls for specific actions, many of which are covered in the legislation proposed yesterday. Other goals outlined in the brief include lifting the ban on industrialized hemp and establishing a Sensible Drug Policy Working Group in Congress.
Issues discussed in the brief include the financial and human costs of the war on marijuana, racial inequality in marijuana enforcement, obstacles to medical marijuana research and the health risks of marijuana compared to those of alcohol and tobacco.
‘Hold Congress’ Feet to the Fire’
Marijuana policy reformers have made tremendous progress at the state level in recent years, but until now, they’ve failed to gain much traction on Capitol Hill. These bills signify that the tectonic shift in public opinion is finally making things move in Congress.
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), wrote in AlterNet that the bills are significant even though they’re not likely to take Washington, D.C., by storm.
“Will Congress enact any of these measures this year? Arguably the answer is no,” Armentano said. “But it is important to remember that Congress relented its stranglehold on alcohol prohibition after fewer than a dozen states rejected the policy. It is likely that this same lesson will also be applicable to cannabis – assuming that marijuana law reformers continue to hold Congress’ feet to the fire.”
What do you think of the latest marijuana reform legislation? Let us know in the comments section below.