Lawmakers Introduce Bill Package to Treat Marijuana Like Alcohol

Lawmakers Introduce Bill Package to Treat Marijuana Like Alcohol

Oregon lawmakers have introduced a comprehensive marijuana law reform package in Congress that would remove pot from the federal list of controlled substances and make the government responsible for regulating marijuana like alcohol. [1]

On March 30, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced a “Path to Marijuana Reform” to Congress to remove the federal ban on cannabis and regulate the industry similar to alcohol.

Under the package of bills, marijuana would be taxed and regulated like alcohol and tobacco, and pot businesses operating legally would no longer face the threat of federal criminal penalties. Additionally, marijuana businesses would be allowed to use federal banks.

Blumenauer said in a statement:

“As more states follow Oregon’s leadership in legalizing and regulating marijuana, too many people are trapped between federal and state laws. It’s not right, and it’s not fair.” [2]

However, individual states could still choose to outlaw marijuana and there would be “strict rules and penalties” for illegally transporting pot across state lines. [1]

Wyden and Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a separate measure that would permit marijuana businesses to claim federal deductions and tax credits. State-sanctioned marijuana businesses must pay an inordinate amount of taxes because the IRS currently treats these businesses as illicit drug-traffickers.

Read: DEA Says Marijuana Will Remain Illegal at the Federal Level

Then, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) reintroduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act to the House of Representatives. The bill will serve as part of the “Path to Marijuana Reform” to cap off the bipartisan legislative package.

Passage of the legislative package would be a dream come true to marijuana advocates and businesses alike, but especially for certain federal marijuana offenders. The Policy Gap Act section of the legislation would create a “expungement process” for people who were busted by federal authorities for possessing less than an ounce of weed or for any “activity that was state legal at the time of offense.”

The package would also forbid the government from being able to use marijuana drug tests to block people from states where marijuana is legal from applying for certain federal jobs.

Some cannabis offenders would be able to apply for financial aid and live in federally-assisted public housing, and certain cannabis-related crimes would no longer be grounds for deportation for undocumented migrants. Civil forfeiture would also disappear, meaning the feds would no longer be able to seize cash and property from people who haven’t been charged with a crime.

The legislative package would also have an enormous impact on veterans, as healthcare workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be allowed to “provide recommendations and opinions” about medical marijuana.

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Source: National Council for Behavioral Health

Furthermore, it would be easier for scientists to study the medicinal effects of medical cannabis by “creating a new registration process specifically for medical marijuana that will reduce approval wait times, costly security measures, and unnecessary layers of protocol review.”

In a statement, Polis said:

“Colorado has proven that allowing responsible adults to legally purchase marijuana, gives money to classrooms, not cartels; creates jobs, not addicts; and boosts our economy, not our prison population.

Now, more than ever, it is time we end the federal prohibition on marijuana and remove barriers for states’ that have chosen to legalize marijuana. This budding industry can’t afford to be stifled by the Trump administration and its mixed-messages about marijuana. The cannabis industry, states’, and citizens deserve leadership when it comes to marijuana.” [2]

But with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, passing the bills will undoubtedly be a fight. Some 59% of all U.S. voters are in favor of legal weed, but most GOP constituents are still opposed.

Wyden and Blumenauer pointed out in a statement announcing the proposal that more than 20% of Americans live in the 8 states where recreational marijuana is legal, and 95% of the country has some form of legal access to medical marijuana. They also noted research that projects the cannabis industry will create nearly 300,000 jobs by 2020. [1]

Read: November 8: The Biggest Day for Marijuana Legalization Since 2012

In a statement, Robert Capecchi, the federal policy guru for the Marijuana Policy Project, said:

“This is commonsense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws.

States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate this transition, not hinder it.” [3]


[1] Vice News

[2] SFGate

[3] The Fresh Toast

Vice News

National Council for Behavioral Health