Even as states keep chipping away at marijuana prohibition, some House members keep trying to change the federal law.
A bill being introduced by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., would end federal marijuana prohibition, letting states decide their own policies; it also would set up a regulatory process like the one for alcohol for states that choose to legalize the drug. Commercial marijuana producers would have to buy a permit, as commercial alcohol producers now do, to offset the costs of oversight by the newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms.
And a bill by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would establish a 50 percent federal excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, from the producer to the next stage of production, usually the processor. It also would impose an occupational tax on those operating in marijuana, with producers, importers and manufacturers facing an occupation tax of $1,000 per year and any other person engaged in the business facing an annual tax of $500 per year.
“Absolutely, there’s an opportunity for us to make at minimum a $100 billion difference over the next 10 years,” Blumenauer said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon, as the nation moves away from high law enforcement and prison costs and marijuana starts generating public revenue.
Polis said November’s successful legalization ballot measures in his state and Washington mark “an enormous evolution of American opinion on the issue.”
Most Americans now believe the war on drugs has failed and “enough is enough, let’s try a new way,” he said. “It’s an idea that’s time has come.”
Jesselyn McCurdy, senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, said the war on drugs has had disproportionate impact on communities of color. Students for Sensible Drug Policy executive director Aaron Houston said young people are disproportionately impacted as well.
“It’s clear that we’ve reached the tipping point,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The American people are demanding reform, and members of Congress are starting to give it to them.”