On Friday, the cannabis world and its sympathizers, including roughly 60% of the US population, received encouraging, and outright brilliant, news from DC: two house bills introduced in Congress to federally legalize, tax and regulate weed.
The first bill, the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act,” would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and shift regulation from the DEA to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which would regulate marijuana much like alcohol.
The second bill, the “Marijuana Tax Revenue Act,” would impose a federal excise tax, on top of any state/local taxes, on the sale of marijuana for recreational use and would include an occupational tax for cannabis businesses.
The question is how likely are these bills to pass and be signed into law by President Obama? The two lead Democrat Congressmen on the bills, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, have introduced similar legislation previously, and unsuccessfully, in 2013. Both times, the House has been under Democrat control, so what has changed in the past two years? Well, four states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana, adding to the 23 states legalizing medical marijuana and 11 other states legalizing low-THC forms of medical marijuana. These bills, if enacted, would remove the 78-year old federal prohibition of marijuana, allowing citizens in the legalized states to be free of the federal-level legal threat and clear the pathway for remaining states to legalize recreational and/or medical marijuana. Additionally, as the hegemon country, the US would be clearing a pathway for legalization in non-US nations.
Crucially, it is important for readers to understand that articles leaked by the mainstream likes of the Associated Press in December claiming that the 1,603-page Cromnibus federal spending bill legalized medical marijuana are completely false. According to The Liberty Papers, which we trust because, for one, it provides the bill’s relevant language in its article, “All they did in this omnibus appropriations bill, was to partially defund and deprioritize enforcement of federal marijuana prohibition, against medical marijuana dispensaries only (NOT grow ops, or users) in those states with medical marijuana, between January and September.”
Indeed, marijuana, both medical and recreational, is still illegal on a federal level. Polis said in a statement Friday, “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.” Legalization and decriminalization in affected states have, heretofore, had to depend on federal guidance urging prosecutors to refrain from targeting businesses and individuals in those states. Legal precedent, however, has established that federal trumps state law on marijuana, so these states have had to depend on a laissez-faire approach by the current administration, which could change in the next election.
“The culture of the DEA has been highly problematic for marijuana,” Polis said Friday. “It’s an enforcement agency rather than a regulatory agency. Much to the chagrin of policymakers, they’re too often focused on marijuana enforcement instead of more dangerous drugs in their purview. Moving it to a regulatory agency which seeks the balance, rather than an enforcement agency which is entirely focused on stopping it, is important for marijuana legalization.”
A seemingly tyrannical DEA has repressed marijuana use far more than hard, debilitating drugs, not to mention alcohol, which is not only legal but actually encouraged in our society for adults. This is the American “police state” in classic action. So the message is use alcohol but don’t use drugs, especially cannabis, which is, ironically, the only beneficial and natural drug. As we reported last week, cannabis is vastly “better” than alcohol on every level.
For his part, Blumenauer had the following to say: “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.”
It all sounds good, but what are the chances that a Republican-controlled Congress will pass these bills? Given that Republican Congressmen and the DC Attorney General have been threatening jail time for the DC mayor and other District employees, it is easy to be pessimistic about cannabis legalization anytime soon. However, besides the likelihood that these threats are simply political brinkmanship, rest assured that there is plenty of money from high places, George Soros for one, that will force federal legalization at some point. The question is not “if” but “when.”
By Robert Brand