Two Democratic congressmen are tapping into what they call a “groundswell of public opinion” by introducing legislation to legalize marijuana on the federal level, tax it and regulate it like alcohol and tobacco.
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis introduced the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act on Tuesday. The bill would remove marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances and prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration from regulating it.
Pot would be regulated under the to-be-newly-named Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms. (RELATED: Poll shows most Americans thinks feds shouldn’t enforce marijuana laws in pot-permissive states)
If passed, it would mean that states would be free to set their own marijuana policies without the threat of federal intervention, which is currently the greatest hurdle to the pot industries in Colorado and Washington, which legalized the adult recreational use of marijuana by wide margins in November.
“Americans have increasingly come to the conclusion that the drug war is a failed policy,” Polis said. “Americans are sick and tired of the cost of the war on drugs, whether we’re talking about the financial costs in a time of deficits or whether we’re talking about the human costs.”
Polis said there has been an “enormous evolution” in public sentiment toward marijuana and that legalization is “an idea whose time has come.”
Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer also introduced a bill to impose a 50 percent excise tax on marijuana’s first sale from growers to retailers, as well as other taxes similar to those imposed on alcohol and tobacco.
He estimated $100 billion in savings over 10 years in law enforcement costs alone.
Marijuana is currently classified in the most restrictive category of the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I, along with dangerous substances like heroin, GHB and ecstasy. Schedule I drugs are said to have no medical benefits, no safe dosage and a high rate of addiction.
Yet 15 states have decriminalized marijuana possession to the level where it carries the same penalties as a traffic ticket. Eighteen states and Washington D.C. have passed medical marijuana laws. And at least six states have introduced — or will soon introduce — legislation to regulate marijuana like alcohol in the wake of the legalization votes in Washington and Colorado.
A Public Policy Poll from late last year showed 58 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana.
Marijuana advocates praised the congressmen.
“It’s clear that we’ve reached a tipping point against the failed war on drugs,” said Bill Piper, the director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Major changes in federal law are going to happen, and I think it’s obvious that that change is happening now.”
Blumenauer said there may be as many as 10 bills concerning marijuana and drug enforcement issues introduced in this Congress. He said there were about 20 lawmakers from both parties working on changing marijuana laws.
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