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Federal Bills Could End Prohibition

Bright Green Cannabis Leaves on Black Background
Photo by Carlos Gracia


Federal Bills Could End Prohibition

The snarling beast of prohibition, which has facilitated the enslavement of civil society, cannot be impaled on the White House lawn until soldiers with enough courage to confront the ferocity of over 500 wild-eyed psychopaths come forward and force it to fight. This is the consensus of two federal lawmakers, who recently introduced legislation to the congressional powers aimed at legalizing marijuana on a federal level.

Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon announced last week the filing of two bills that would strip marijuana of its Schedule I classification with the Drug Enforcement Administration, while pushing forth policies that would allow a nationwide cannabis industry to flourish.

The bill introduced by Representative Polis is called the “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.” It would eliminate cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, while allowing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to take the reins and establish rules that would allow pot to be sold across America in a manner similar to alcohol.

Blumenauer’s legislation, aptly titled the “Marijuana Tax Revenue Act,” takes the concept of nationwide legalization a step further by implementing a federal excise tax and other standards that would enable a more concise and integrated industry. Although this legislation serves as an attempt to reform the nation’s antiquated pot policies, which have led to the highest incarceration rate in the world, the law wouldn’t force individual states to participate if they chose to maintain prohibition. The law would simply impose federal regulations, so that state governments could join the circus at some point without concerns over the formulation of regulatory structure.

With that being said, Representative Polis can’t understand why any state would chose to opt out of this estimated multi-billion dollar industry once it has been given the green light by Uncle Sam. He says that in his state of Colorado, legalization has already led to improvements in the economy and overall public safety.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Blumenauer’s bill would establish a federal excise tax on sales of non-medical marijuana beginning at 10 percent and increase to 25 percent as the market matured. It would also assist in structuring the cannabis industry with uniformed policies, forcing pot manufacturers and retail outlets to follow guidelines similar to those imposed on the alcohol and tobacco industries.

“Together these bills create a federal framework to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, much like we treat alcohol and tobacco.” said Blumenauer. “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.”

Yet, while the Obama Administration has done its best over the past few years to create the illusion of marijuana reform, the federal government hasn’t really given us any reason to believe that the end to prohibition is right around the corner. What is interesting, however, is that while cannabis is still considered a product of devil in the eyes of the federal government, the polls consistently indicate that at least 50 percent of the population supports legal marijuana.

Drug policy experts believe the time has come for federal pot laws to catch up with what is happening across the country. After all, Colorado has already proven that legalization is devastating to the black market, with recent reports showing that American grow operations have put Mexican farmers in a position where they must either consider getting involved in heroin production or die out.

“If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they’ll run us into the ground,” one grower told NPR.

These bills, according to Dan Riffle, director of federal policy for the Marijuana Policy Project, will strip away all of the power from the underground cannabis trade and put it into the hands of legitimate business.

“Marijuana would be grown in licensed facilities instead of national forests and basements in the suburbs,” he told Alternet. “It would be sold in stores that create good jobs and generate tax revenue, instead of on the street where it benefits cartels and criminals.”

Unfortunately, the chances of Congress siding with logic and common sense are not in our favor, as similar measure have failed miserably. In fact, Polis and Blumenauer introduced a bill two years ago called the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013,” which gain the support of 18 co-sponsors, but it never managed to get a hearing within the committee. And considering the recent underhanded actions of Congress in an attempt to prevent the District of Columbia from enacting legislation to establish retail pot sales, it’s unlikely these bills will receive a hearing again in 2015.

Do you think the federal government should reschedule cannabis? Share your opinion in the comments.

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