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Federal Marijuana Reform Bills Introduced [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #770)

Two Democratic congressmen announced Tuesday that they are introducing legislation to reform federal marijuana policy. In a joint press conference that also included representatives of drug reform groups, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jared Polis (D-CO) announced two separate bills aimed at addressing the looming clash between intransigent federal marijuana policies and states that have or likely will legalize marijuana. And more bills are pending, they said.

Blumenauer and Polis also released a report entitled "The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy," which outlines their perspective on marijuana policy and provides some background on regulation and opportunities for action. The congressmen have also established the Sensible Drug Policy Working Group, which will provide a forum for members of Congress who are working on related issues and hope to advance legislation.

Polis's Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act would remove the DEA's authority over marijuana, end federal marijuana prohibition, and leave it to the states to decide whether to prohibit marijuana or not. Blumenauer's Marijuana Tax Equity Act, House Bill 501, would create a federal excise tax on marijuana similar to those imposed on alcohol and tobacco. Taken together, the two bills would provide for a system of marijuana regulation and taxation in states where it is legal.

More specifically, Polis's bill would:

  • Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Transfer the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to regulate marijuana to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, which will be tasked with regulating marijuana as it currently does alcohol;
  • Require marijuana producers to purchase a permit, as commercial alcohol producers do, of which the proceeds would offset the cost of federal oversight; and
  • Ensure federal law distinguishes between individuals who grow marijuana for personal use and those involved in commercial sale and distribution.

Blumenauer's bill would:

  • Impose a 50% excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, from the producer to the next stage of production, usually the processor;
  • Impose an occupational tax similar to those in the tobacco and alcohol industries on those operating in marijuana, with producers, importers and manufacturers facing an occupation tax of $1,000 per year and any other person engaged in the business facing an annual tax of $500 per year;
  • Impose civil penalties for failure to comply with taxing duties. Criminal penalties will be assessed for intentional efforts to defraud the taxing authorities; and
  • Require the IRS to produce a study of the industry after two years, and every five years after that, and to issue recommendations to Congress to continue improving the administration of the tax.

The time has come for marijuana law reform at the federal level, the two congressmen said.

"There has been an enormous evolution of American opinion on marijuana. Americans are sick and tired of the costs of marijuana prohibition, whether it’s the financial costs or the human costs. Americans are saying enough is enough, let's try a new policy. We need to address drug use as a public health issue, not a criminal justice one," said Polis.

"My bill doesn't affect the legal status of marijuana where it is currently illegal," the Colorado congressman explained, "but it does allow states that have created either a legalized and regulated scheme for sales or that have medical marijuana laws to operate, without the constant fear that the federal government and the DEA and the other agencies will prosecute patients or businesses that are fully legal under state law. This is an idea whose time has come."

"Forty years ago, as a freshman member of the Oregon legislature, I was able to vote to make Oregon the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana," said Blumenauer. "Since then, 14 states have joined Oregon, and after California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, we now have 19 jurisdictions that have authorized it, and we now have the first two states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use."

The Oregon congressman added that he and Polis are working with a bipartisan group of representatives and that up to eight or 10 marijuana reform bills could be introduced this session.

"We're looking at antiquated and sometimes nonsensical federal laws and policies to try to get us on a path that is less expensive, more productive, more fair, and more in tune with where America is going," Blumenauer said. "We arrested two-thirds of a million people in 2011 for a substance most people think should be legal. The president said he has bigger fish to fry, but there are still people further down the federal food chain frying those fish."

"This is a very exciting day," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Last November, voters in Colorado and Washington made history, and the polling shows that a majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana. There is no doubt more states will legalize in the years to come. This is the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition."

"We were a primary backer of Amendment 64 in Colorado, which directed the state to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "That's how we believe it should be treated, and we look forward to working with Reps. Polis and Blumenauer to see that this legislation is eventually passed by Congress."

If not this year, then soon, the congressmen said.

"There is growing support for this bill," Polis argued. "There has really been a sea change; we saw test votes in the last Congress for defunding the DEA and other things, and saw very strong support, and that will only increase over time. Congress is frequently a lagging indicator for public opinion; it’s a question of Congress catching up."

"This is the beginning, not the end," said Blumenauer. "My bill is a first step and we anticipate some give and take, but this will be gaining momentum.  We've got legislation here today to get the ball rolling, but there will be more that you will be hearing about in the days ahead."

"It's clear that we've reached a tipping point," said Piper. "Major changes are going to happen and are happening now. The American people are demanding reform, and members of Congress are starting to give it to them."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous8675309 (not verified)

When will we know how many agree or disagree, and who they are? I believe this is going to be a good.move for our country ! It's a gonna.give, better wages and so much more! Let Our country take the lead! All the people should be happy and excited and ready to get things moving in all states. Call, write, AND email your legislators and Senators tell them politely you want your state Senators to legalize marijuana for the good of.our country! Go to the White House News and sign petitions. Lots of information there too! Do anything you can help the cause! WE THE PEOPLE!
Wed, 02/06/2013 - 12:33am Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous8675309 (not verified)

They plan to introduce the bills.. now I'm not an expert on how congress works, or whatever, but having the bill introduced does not even guarantee they'll ever vote on it.. I know Ron Paul and Barney Frank introduced their own bill to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition back in 2011 (HR 2306).  I guess the way it works is there is a comprehensive 10 step process or whatever.. first a bill is Introduced, then it goes to a Committee, then that Committee has a hearing and decides if it'll go beyond there.. HR 2306 never even had the committee hearings, I don't think.. it just sorta hung there in limbo and likely will forever more since both Paul and Frank are retiring.

Heck, I don't even know the process, quite honeslty.  I just know Paul and Frank introduced that bill a couple years ago, and at gov tracker it's still at step 2 with no forward progress.

Public Opinion has shifted dramatically, though, so maybe they'll want to press forward this time and actually hear this bill out.. then again with all the gun control and debt issues occupying congress, they might be afraid the public would view it as an outrage if they spent any time debating or discussing marijuana policy with all "these other major issues" that "they need to fix" as taking a top priority.

Who knows, though?  One of the staff at this site once replied to a comment to say that politicians are opportunists.  If Marijauana reform presents a golden opportunity for some resaon or another, like say all these polls are showing overwhelming support among young Americans, they might move in and stirke while the iron is hot.

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 1:25am Permalink
CJ (not verified)

wow. that's so awesome. heh. best of luck to you all. if it works out and anybody is in NYC ill buy you a legal 20 sack then we can go to the park where my crusties are at [*wink*] and you can return the favor.


uhhh..hey Blumie... got any ink left in that pen to throw the word diacetylmorphine in that paper? cmon man, dont be like that.

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 7:43am Permalink

When will our Government realize it can profit more from taxing the sale of the harmless medicinal herb than by jailing people for it?  Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws and defending this plant.  I drew up a very cool poster for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at  Drop in and let me know what you think!

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:33pm Permalink
Ben Alonso (not verified)

Regarding HR 2306, the difference here is that a Senate Bill of this kind has more weight. "The Founders intended that the House be seen as more closely representing the will of the people than the Senate. To this end, they provided that members of the House - U.S. Representatives - be elected by and represent limited groups of citizens living in small geographically defined districts within each state. Senators, on the other hand, are elected by and represent all voters of their state. When the House considers a bill, individual members tend to base their votes primarily on how the bill might impact the people of their local district, while Senators tend to consider how the bill would impact the nation as a whole. This is just as the Founders intended." Source:
Wed, 02/06/2013 - 7:33pm Permalink
Ben Alonso (not verified)

Regarding HR 2306, the difference here is that a Senate Bill of this kind has more weight. "The Founders intended that the House be seen as more closely representing the will of the people than the Senate. To this end, they provided that members of the House - U.S. Representatives - be elected by and represent limited groups of citizens living in small geographically defined districts within each state. Senators, on the other hand, are elected by and represent all voters of their state. When the House considers a bill, individual members tend to base their votes primarily on how the bill might impact the people of their local district, while Senators tend to consider how the bill would impact the nation as a whole. This is just as the Founders intended." Source:
Wed, 02/06/2013 - 7:36pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

Why isn't this in the news?  It's not made the front page of any online media outlet that I can see.. coverage of this is so small and limited.  This seems to be the damage control method they are using.. containing the spread of this news.  Some of this stuff if you didn't read drug reformers' blogs or Huffington Post, you'd not even know about it.

Why is the mainstream media ignoring this new bill from Blumenauer and Polis?

Gonna be hard to get a lot of people to write to their representatives with such a tight lid on media exposure... what is going on here?

I saw the same thing in Novemeber with Colorado and Washington.  Sure it made headlines and got attention, but i was expecting it to get a ton more attention than it did.. and then attention quickly got diverted away by other things going on.

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 7:55pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

In reply to by Uncle Bob (not verified)

In fact the only front page marijuana related article I can find on mainstream media right now is a bs article about pot casing strokes on FoxNews ... and the article is such bs too.  Oh the study concluded marijuana increases the risk of stroke, because in a case study of X number of stroke patients, several of them tested positive for it.. oh it must be causing it then herp derp derp

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 8:14pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

In reply to by Uncle Bob (not verified)

Three posts in a row in one article.. that's a lot even for me.. but since we can't edit or change our posts that I'm aware of.. anyway I stand corrected.  I guess they were just slow in putting it out there.  Few sites now have this story on their front page.. guess it was just delayed.  So yea, never mind.

Thu, 02/07/2013 - 1:20am Permalink
Mr. Herb (not verified)

In reply to by Uncle Bob (not verified)

Stories like this are excluded from the mainstream news because they don't want anyone to know.  They pacify us with silly stories about Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen, like someone really cares.  But they work hard to hide the antics of Wall Street and our bought and paid for government.

Thu, 02/07/2013 - 4:46pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Notice how Republicans talk about " State`s " rights  . Except for the evil plant known as Marijuana . Since Sen.McConnell now supports Kentucky Hemp farming, the repubs might have some hope of redemption . Reefer Madness is dead . Rep. Polis should consider a move into the White House in 2016 .

Thu, 02/07/2013 - 4:31am Permalink
Nemo (not verified)

If only because of the name of the Polis bill.

Think about it. The Bill specifically states it is intended to end 'marijuana' prohibition. The prohibs will have to defend their positions in light of the fact that cannabis prohibition is named as such.

Every American who has attended public school knows from American History classes that alcohol Prohibition was a failure. No argument. Case closed. Period.

The implication is that 'prohibition = failure'. The implication of this Bill is that the same is true of cannabis prohibition as it was with alcohol Prohibition.

Prohibitionist pols will have to argue in debate (if the Bill gets that far) that cannabis prohibition is not a failure, when the name of the Bill clearly implies it is. The prohib pols cannot say that cannabis prohibition is not a prohibition, when it so clearly is.

This backs the prohibs into the very last corner. They can either capitulate...or come out fighting in full-on,  wide-eyed, foaming, raving Reefer-Madness lunacy. And with the generation that actually believed that drivel (and anything else the Gub'mint said, regardless of veracity)  starting to die off, and are being replaced with an entire generation that knows the truth and has been inoculated against the lies by being exposed to them at an early age through the massively failed attempt at brainwashing ("Just Say No! Just Say No!"), the prohibs are facing a generational battle they cannot win.

All the prohibs can do now is fight a rearguard action...and the rearguard is usually cut to pieces in a retreat. They should just throw in the towel before they really take a beating.

Thu, 02/07/2013 - 11:24am Permalink
Mr. Herb (not verified)

The Only Right Way to Legalize Marijuana in America

The legalization of marijuana is now at hand and we must be very careful how we proceed.  The first thing we must do is to offer an accurate perspective on prohibition so we do not make the same mistakes again.  Let’s all take two large steps back and look at the big picture.  In the late 20’s and 30’s, several states had passed anti-marijuana laws but proponents of marijuana prohibition were trying to get federal prohibition enacted.  Two of the most powerful prohibitionists were William Randolph Hearst and Ed DuPont.  Hearst was growing pine trees to sell to his newspaper empire as pulp wood and he certainly did not want to compete with hemp fibers.  DuPont received a patent in 1929 to produce nylon fibers from oil and of course he had no use for hemp either.  As their plan progressed, prohibitionists raised fears that black New Orleans jazz musicians would smoke marijuana and rape white women.  The three foundational points on which marijuana prohibition rests are excessive corporate influence in government, governmental corruption and racism.  These are the same major problems we are dealing with today in America and marijuana prohibition is making them worse.  It never had anything to do with drugs: it was always about hemp.    

The next point that needs to be faced is that tobacco and alcohol are the two most dangerous drugs in American society.  Together, they kill over half a million people in this country every year and nobody cares.  Though marijuana has never been responsible for a single death, we arrest nearly 800,000 people annually for marijuana offenses, and we have been doing so for years.  It has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry and it does not keep drugs away from anyone.  In the seventy five years since the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 was enacted, trillions of dollars of after tax income have been systemically extorted from the American people and given to Mexican drug cartels and other terrorists who use this money to do harm to America.  The lives of millions of American citizens have been damaged or destroyed by the enforcement of laws that should not exist: laws that were enacted by a bought and paid for government that shouldn’t exist either. 

There is a movement in America to legalize marijuana and tax it like alcohol.  I am opposed to this for purely financial reasons.  I have seen the US marijuana market estimated at $130 billion annually.  If we legalize marijuana and tax it we will just be shifting the profits from the Mexican drug cartels to the Wall Street banksters while the consumers will still be paying black market prices for something we can grow for ourselves for free.  Consumers won’t be criminals anymore and that is a step in the right direction but we can do better if we get politics and profits completely out of it. 

The only right way to legalize marijuana is simple.  Anyone in America who has a legal right to buy and consume deadly tobacco and alcohol must have the same legal right to grow and consume marijuana in any quantity without fear of prosecution or persecution by anyone.  This includes employers or perspective employers with a urine specimen cup in their hand.  All of this is contingent on marijuana users being responsible for themselves at all times, and they are doing that now so I don’t see this as a problem.  With this plan in place toward marijuana users, we can forget about marijuana.  The black market for marijuana in America will be closed for ever: no one can compete with free.  With the money that consumers will save plus the savings from fighting criminal prosecution the little people will have about $200 billion a year in their pockets to spend on goods and services on the open market.  This will stimulate the economy from the bottom up and help the people at the bottom of the food chain first.    

Now we can start thinking about hemp, which is where the real money is.  We need to get the nation’s farmers growing as much hemp as possible.  It sits there in the field all summer sucking CO2 out of the air and producing more oxygen than any other plant of comparable size.  At the end of the season, we can make ethanol from the leaves, which will allow us to feed the nation’s corn supply to cattle thus producing beef that poor people can afford again.  The stalks produce the strongest natural fiber known.  Every plastic product we can replace with a hemp product will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the hemp product will break down in the land fill in a fraction of the time as their plastic predecessors.  The seeds are very high in amino acids, which are very nutritious and this is what we know about the plant now.  Bear in mind, it is illegal for the research scientists to possess it too.  We could create a whole new industry and millions of good paying jobs.

            All of these are good reasons to legalize marijuana but the most important reason is freedom.  We must face the reality that the United States government isn’t waging war on marijuana.  They are waging war on the American people.  In a war, the opposing forces are referred to as enemies.  Any legislative body that passes an appropriations bill to fund the so called “war on marijuana” is giving aid and comfort to America’s enemies.  The U. S. Constitution defines the giving of aid and comfort to America’s enemies as treason.  So this is not about people being high: it is about people being free.  No nation is free so long as its government wages war on its citizens.  When marijuana is free, America will be free.   


Thu, 02/07/2013 - 4:01pm Permalink
Therese L. Smith (not verified)

As a 75 year old woman with a card in Michigan where Medical Marijuana was supported by 63% of the voters. I have had a great deal of experience with alcohol addiction. I know the devastation to the health of the alcoholic, loss of family, jobs, and too often even a house. Drunks become mean, beligerent, and downright disgusting. I have known pot users, who for years, were responsible in every way, ( believing conscience trumped man-made laws). Often marijuana helps not only medical problems but other issues as well: anger is difficult to maintain so users do not tend to be mean, or go around shooting up schools, (I mean those who do not mix with other substances. Anyway, prohibition has been maintained by lobbies who represent industries like alcohol, chemical labs who make legal poisons. Check ads on TV for lawyers suing for "side-effects", including death.
Thu, 02/07/2013 - 4:21pm Permalink
Uncle Bob (not verified)

Blumenaur and Polis are in the house not the senate.. I was mistaken?

Sun, 02/17/2013 - 2:03pm Permalink

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