Congressmen Blumenauer and Polis to Release Report and Establish Working Group for Sensible Drug Policy
History will be made on Tuesday when U.S. Representatives join together to coordinate the introduction of two bills treating marijuana like alcohol and taxing marijuana at the federal level. Legislators have determined it is time to end the federal war on marijuana and let states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference.
“The American people clearly support marijuana policy reform and Congress should enact legislation to reflect that,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “With a growing number of states legalizing marijuana for medical or non-medical use this is an issue that cannot be ignored, and this year is the year to change federal law.”
“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 (MPP). “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.
Leading voices introducing legislation on the Hill this week include Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also recently said he will hold hearings on changing federal marijuana law. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently said it is time to allow U.S. farmers to grow hemp, which would take a change of federal law.
A recent Rasmussen poll found that 56 percent of respondents support regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco. Polling also finds that about three out of four Americans support medical marijuana programs. Public Policy Polling, in a survey taken from November 30 to December 2 last year, similarly found that a record-high 58 percent of Americans think cannabis should be legal.
To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, and 15 states have decriminalized marijuana for personal adult use. In November of 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado made history by passing the country’s first measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol.
“To have these two bills introduced in one week, this early in the Congress, is unprecedented,” said Jasmine L. Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
In light of the growing momentum behind efforts to regulate marijuana like alcohol at the state and federal levels, MPP has changed the name of its federal political action committee from the “MPP Medical Marijuana PAC” to the “Marijuana Policy Project PAC.” See the difference? The new name includes recreational legalization.
“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 [a] 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,” Fox said.
Rep Jared Polis’ bill will end federal marijuana prohibition and let states decide their own marijuana policies without the threat of federal interference, and would set up a regulatory process – similar to the one for alcohol – for states that decide to legalize. Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s bill would create a federal tax on marijuana.
Additionally, Reps. Blumenauer and Polis will be publishing a briefing paper entitled “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy” which outlines their perspective on marijuana policy and provides some background on marijuana regulation and opportunities for action. The Congressmen are also establishing the Sensible Drug Policy Working Group which will provide a forum for members of Congress who are working on related issues and hope to advance legislation.
“The U.S. has reached a tipping point, politically, culturally, and legislatively,” said Piper. “Major changes to federal marijuana laws are going to happen; it’s not a question of if, but when.”