WASHINGTON – February 5 – Members of Congress introduced bills Tuesday to end marijuana prohibition and start regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the federal level.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, which would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol at the federal level. It would also remove marijuana from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and place it in the jurisdiction of a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms, and Explosives.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the Marijuana Tax Equity Act, which would create a federal excise tax on the sale of marijuana similar to that imposed on the sale of alcohol. It would also require occupational taxes for those engaged in the industry.
“Marijuana prohibition has proven to be just as ineffective, wasteful, and problematic as alcohol prohibition,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol will take marijuana sales away from cartels and the criminal market and put them in the hands of legitimate, tax-paying businesses.”
“Voters and elected officials nationwide are fed up with laws that criminalize adults simply for using a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” Fox said.
In November, voters in Colorado and Washington State approved measures making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and directing state regulatory bodies to create regulations for businesses to cultivate and sell marijuana to adults. Bills to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol have been introduced this year in the Hawaii and New Hampshire state legislatures, and lawmakers in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont are expected to bring forward similar legislation.
A record high 58% of Americans think marijuana should be made legal, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 of last year. A USA Today/Gallup poll released in December found that 63% of Americans believe the federal government should not interfere in the implementation of state marijuana laws such as those approved in Washington and Colorado.
In light of the growing momentum behind efforts to regulate marijuana like alcohol at the state and federal levels, the nation’s largest marijuana-policy-reform organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, has changed the name of its federal political action committee from the “MPP Medical Marijuana PAC” to the “Marijuana Policy Project PAC.”
“The re-naming of our PAC reflects the new reality in Washington, D.C.,” Fox said. “Following the passage of the initiatives to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol in Colorado and Washington last November, there is finally significant momentum in Congress behind ending marijuana prohibition across the board at the federal level.”
“The introduction of the two new bills this week is evidence of this philosophical shift,” Fox said. “While we are obviously still committed to protecting medical marijuana patients and providers, our PAC’s new name reflects our broader mission in Congress. The end of marijuana prohibition is coming, and we plan to support elected officials and candidates who favor the repeal of this unfair, irrational, and wasteful policy.”