Two congressmen filed separate bills in February that would legalize marijuana at the federal level and subject it to taxes and government regulation. If they pass, 78 years of cannabis prohibition would come to a screeching halt.
The bills wouldn’t actually make weed legal everywhere, as states could still ban it under their own laws, but it would clear the way for legalization anywhere voters want it.
Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, introduced a bill called the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. It would erase cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would put the drug under the purview of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, instead of the DEA.
Marijuana should be treated like alcohol
Polis’ legislation would regulate legal marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. It would leave states with the ultimate decision on whether to allow recreational or medical pot.
A second bill, known as the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. This law would create a federal excise tax on marijuana.
Colorado and Oregon both allow recreational marijuana at the state level, as do Washington State and Alaska. Voters also legalized the drug in Washington, D.C., though the future of that policy remains in doubt.
“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,” Polis said. “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.”
Cannabis under schedule 1 of Controlled Substances Act
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law thanks to the Controlled Substances Act. That Nixon-era law classified various legally controlled substances according to their risks and medical uses.
Cannabis is grouped under schedule 1 of the CSA, meaning the feds believe it’s one of the most dangerous, most addictive, and least beneficial drugs known to man. That position has long been contested, but there has rarely been much serious discussion about changing the designation.
The states with legal weed get away with it only because the Obama administration takes a relatively tolerant approach to the issue and provides guidelines that states can follow when adopting reform.
That could change under a new administration, a possibility that led Polis and Blumenauer to file their bills. Blumenauer called federal prohibition a “failure” and said state and federal lawmakers should work together to craft a better alternative.
“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 congressman said.