Civil Liberties

Here Are the Two Pieces of Legislation That Could Forever Change Federal Marijuana Policy


Jared Polis

Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have officially introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act and the Marijuana Tax Equity Act. The former bill eliminates federal prohibition of marijuana, and the latter bill establishes a tax structure for the production and sale of the drug, as well as removes it from the purview of the DEA. While the full language of the bills won't be released until after a 5 p.m. press conference, Polis has published specific provisions on his website

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act follows Colorado's model of regulating marijuana like alcohol by:

  • Removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Transferring 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;
  • Requiring marijuana producers to purchase a permit, as commercial alcohol producers do, of which the proceeds would offset the cost of federal oversight; and,
  • Ensuring federal law distinguishes between individuals who grow marijuana for personal use and those involved in commercial sale and distribution.

The Marijuana Tax Equity Act would create the following framework: 

  • This bill imposes a 50 percent excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, from the producer to the next stage of production, usually the processor;
  • Similar to the rules within the alcohol and tobacco tax provisions, an occupational tax will be imposed on those operating in marijuana, with producers, importers and manufacturers facing an occupation tax of $1,000/a year and any other person engaged in the business facing an annual tax of $500/a year;
  • Civil penalties will be imposed for failure to comply with taxing duties. Criminal penalties will be assessed for intentional efforts to defraud the taxing authorities; and,
  • The bill also requires 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.

Blumenauer and Polis also released a lengthy report titled "The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy."

In announcing the legislation's introduction, the Marijuana Policy Project also announced that it's changing the name of its political action arm, from "MPP Medical Marijuana PAC" to the "Marijuana Policy Project PAC."

"The re-naming of our PAC reflects the new reality in Washington, D.C.," MPP's Steve Fox said in a press release. "Following the passage of the initiatives to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol in Colorado and Washington last November, there is finally significant momentum in Congress behind ending marijuana prohibition across the board at the federal level."