Congressmen Introduce Bills to Legalize and Tax Marijuana

States would still be free to ban the drug.


Office of Earl Blumenauer

Today Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced bills that would legalize and tax marijuana at the federal level. Polis' Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act (H.R. 1013) would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Subsrances Act and assign regulatory authority to the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Shipping cannabis into states where it is prohibited would remain illegal. Blumenauer's Marijuana Tax Revenue Act (H.R. 1014) would impose an excise tax on the first sale of marijuana (generally from a grower to a processor); the rate, initially 10 percent, would rise gradually to 25 percent. The tax would not apply to medical marijuana.

Why the seemingly unnecessary revenue in the name of Blumenauer's bill? Presumably because he thought changing an h to a j would not be enough to avoid confusion with the law that started marijuana prohibition at the federal level.

Here is how Blumenauer explained the motivation for the bills:

It's time for the federal government to chart a new path forward for marijuana. 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.

Polis added:

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. 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.

The bills unveiled today are similar to legislation that Polis and Bluemenauer introduced in 2013. The 2013 version of the legalization bill attracted 18 cosponsors, two fewer than a similar bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in 2011. The 2013 version of the marijuana tax bill had  nine cospsonsors. None of the bills made it to committee.