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Federal Marijuana Legalization Bills Introduced [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #875)

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.

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.

marijuana bud (horsma/hamppuform
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.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) (
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 only criminalize marijuana, but to classify it as among the most dangerous illegal drugs.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) (
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.

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.


Brian Kelly (not verified)

The "War on Marijuana" has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful "War on Drugs" that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending "War on Marijuana", lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It's a no brainer.

The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

Even The President of the United States has used marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in prison today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record.Let's end this hypocrisy now!

The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana "crimes" because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that's approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 3:24am Permalink
AnonymousNunya (not verified)

Just wondering, if this were to go thru, if the federal gov't would allow us to grow a little of our own. I'm speculating it would fall to state governments, but the feds will more than likely either cap the amount or disallow it altogether. Anyone have any inside info on this? I would also love to hear some speculation and opinions as well.
Sat, 02/21/2015 - 3:50am Permalink
Beadie Eyes (not verified)

In reply to by AnonymousNunya (not verified)

Good question. The Bill in PA is designed for the state to profit and not for the small guy. The language of the bill only growing and processing on a commercial level because they are calling for $50,000.00-$100,000.00 just to push the paperwork through. Home growers get no love. Its just better than nothing. Personally, I don't want to buy tomatoes from the groceries store if I can grow them in my back yard. I feel the same way about marijuana. Treat it like alcohol. In the hit show Breaking Bad, Hank is seen bottling his own beer in his garage. Need I say more? I'll take what I can get until natural things are legal again.
Mon, 02/23/2015 - 3:05am Permalink
Bongstar420 (not verified)

In reply to by AnonymousNunya (not verified)

The Federal Government current doesn't have the authority to restrict personal, non-commercial production within a state. I don't see what would change that short of a monumental Constitutional change.

Just don't grow amounts that are clearly outside of personal consumption, and the Feds will have no case.

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 1:43pm Permalink
Grandpa (not verified)

Now that Congress has allowed Washington D C to legalize up to 120 joints of nuclear-strength pot and pot candies (2 ounces), it needs to allow the rest of the nation to share that pleasure by passing CO Rep Jared Polis' bill HR 1013. 

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 3:51pm Permalink
Bongstar420 (not verified)

In reply to by Grandpa (not verified)

You cannot buy unless its legal in your state.

This doesn't effect anything but prices. It will help keep the black market at bay.

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 1:45pm Permalink
john davis (not verified)

The person or persons who allowed doctors to prescribe opiates to people who died from these products, should be identified and held responsible for their deaths..There is a blatant complicity..Be this the head of out Food and Drug     Administration,or whatever other individuals were involved..Opiates are what heroin is made of and should be in schedule one..We need to stop these big drug companies from making campaign contributions..It!s the same thing as bribery..Thats how Opiates got to schedule three..Cocaine should also be schedule one..MJ is beneficial to a persons depression and should not even be sheduled..To compare Mj to alcohol  is a mistake..A person does not have Alcohol receptors in their body..We should let Scientist make these kinds of decisions..La Buscador..Only in these ways will our Politicians ever rebuild our  trust in them..How will we ever know if we!re not allowed our mistakes..All else is bull..To say one knows before something happens is pretentious..Poverty=boredom=frustration=substance abuse..No demand no supply..People who think they need drugs should be put in a sannitorium..And held there until they are deemed sane by a Professional..La Buscador

Fri, 04/01/2016 - 9:10pm Permalink

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