The bill, dubbed H.R. 689 is supported by a bipartisan group of 13 representatives, and would charge the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana below a Schedule II controlled substance - essentially making it legal for states with medical marijuana laws to continue with their programs. The bill would also allow for the federal government to tax retailers and importers of marijuana at a rate as high as 50 percent.
You can read the full text of H.R. 689 at the Library of Congress website.
Colorado democrat Rep. Jared Polis is expected to submit a second bill with similar goals in the coming weeks. Polis has said his bill will remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances entirely and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would be expanded to include marijuana. It wouldn't outright legalize marijuana in all 50 states, but would allow each state to make that decision on their own.
Original post 2/5/2013: Two U.S. congressmen announced legislation aimed at ending federal marijuana prohibition yesterday. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) teamed up to announce their bills earlier today at a press conference held via telephone.
Polis's bill, dubbed the "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, would legalize marijuana at the federal level, so long as states have enacted legislation allowing for it. It would still be illegal to transport or possess marijuana in states that have not allowed for it. People found violating that would be subject to fines and up to a year in jail.
If passed, the legislation would remove marijuana from the list of controlled substances. It would add marijuana to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, renaming the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to include marijuana. Importantly, it would remove the Drug Enforcement Administration jurisdiction over marijuana enforcement. The Food and Drug Administration would have similar authority to regulate marijuana as they do currently with alcohol.
Individuals cultivating for home use would not be subject to federal registration or permitting, but commercial sales and cultivation would be registered, for a fee, with the Department of the Treasury. Permits will only be granted for people with criminal-free backgrounds for the last five years.
Rep. Jared Polis.
Polis's bill doesn't discuss anything about limits, and presumably would leave issues like that up to the states and controlling federal agencies.
The second bill, proposed by Blumenauer, would allow for a federal excise tax of up to 50 percent on marijuana sales from growers to retailers and would require annual fees from retailers and importers. His bill will also allow for industrial hemp production.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
"Marijuana policy at the state level has shifted abruptly in recent years as states have moved to legalize the drug for both medicinal and recreation use," Blumenauer says on his official U.S. Congress blog. "Unfortunately, federal marijuana policy remains rooted in the past, as all types of marijuana continue to remain illegal under federal law. It is time for Congress to face the facts surrounding marijuana, its use and regulation, and develop a legislative framework that accounts for the inevitable transition of marijuana policy - one that is already well under way."
According to studies released by both congressmen, up to $20 billion in tax revenue per-year wouldn't be unrealistic assuming a $50 tax on every ounce of marijuana.
Unfortunately, both bills are said to be doomed for failure based on the history of recent attempts at similar legislation. Polis' bill is basically a re-worked version of a failed bill sponsored last year by Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas). But still, it's good to see support for cannabis users from our elected officials at the highest level.
Speaking of support, check out Polis handing DEA head Michele Leonhart her ass in a discussion over marijuana use from last year.