Congressional Bills Could Pave Way for Nationwide Legal Marijuana

By Paul Gaita 02/27/15

The bills were introduced by members of Congress from Colorado and Oregon.

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A pair of bills filed in the House on February 20 could enact legislation that would effectively end the prohibition of marijuana on a national level.

The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, introduced by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, would remove marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, place it under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and regulate it like alcohol.

Also filed on February 20 was the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, which was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). That bill would establish a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana, which would be initially set at 10% before eventually increasing to 25%.

Both Polis and Blumenauer have previously introduced similar bills in 2011 and 2013, all of which failed to secure approval. But as more Americans support the idea of legalized marijuana, and other states join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. in legalizing or reforming marijuana laws, Polis believes that the time is right to re-introduce legislation of this nature, especially as Barack Obama is leaving office in 2017.

“It’s important as we head into a presidential election,” said Polis. “We don’t know if the next president will have the same hands-off approach that Barack Obama and Eric Holder eventually found their way towards.”

Economist Jeff Miron echoes the urgency in enacting these bills. “Despite the compelling case for legalization, and progress towards legalization at the state level, ultimate success is not assured,” he wrote. “So far, the federal government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to state medicalizations and legalizations, but in January 2017, the country will have a new president. That person could order the attorney general to enforce federal prohibition regardless of state law.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.