There has been some new legislative activity that could have a major impact on the possibility legalizing marijuana at the federal level.

The new legislation comes in the form of two separate bills that have recently been introduced.  On Friday February 20th, Representative Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado introduced the two separate bills.  Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon has co-sponsored the bills.  Rep’s. Polis and Blumenauer believe that the combined effect of these bills could lower the crime rate by reducing the black market and could move the marijuana industry from society’s fringe into the mainstream.

The first bill, H.R. 1013, is called the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.  This bill would effectively legalize the recreational use of marijuana on the federal level.  The restrictions would be similar to those that are currently used on alcohol.  It would remove marijuana from a list of federally banned drugs.  Currently, marijuana is considered a “schedule 1” drug.  Schedule 1 drugs are classified as having no currently accepted medical use.  This bill would reclassify marijuana and take it off of the Schedule 1 list.  Additionally, this bill would transfer oversight of marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  Specifically, marijuana will be included into the section of U.S. code that covers “intoxicating liquors.”  The result of this will be that marijuana will be treated like alcohol.

The second bill, H.R. 1014, is called the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act.  This bill sets up a federal tax structure for the recreational use of marijuana by setting up a federal excise tax on marijuana.  The excise tax would apply from the sale by a producer (or grower of the marijuana) to the next stage of production which is usually the processor (this is the person who takes the raw form of marijuana and creates a usable product).  It would initially tax 10% of the sales price, but it would eventually rise to 25% over time as the black market is replaced by legal market.  It would have no change on tax implications for medical marijuana, and thus medical marijuana would remain untaxed.  In addition, the bill would require the IRS to conduct studies of the marijuana industry and make recommendations to Congress.

23 states currently allow for medical marijuana, including here in Nevada.  4 states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.  These states are Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.  In addition, the District of Columbia has also legalized recreational marijuana.  This accounts for 213 million people combined who live in a United States territory that allows for some marijuana.  In addition, polls show that more than 46% of people 18 and older have tried marijuana at least once and public opinion reveals more than half of U.S. population supports legalization.

These combined bills would essentially take marijuana from being an illegal substance and make it a controlled substance like alcohol or tobacco.  Rep. Polis believes that these federal bills will be important heading into the next presidential election.  President Obama and United States Attorney General Eric Holder have chosen to take a hands-off approach, allowing the states to enact their marijuana laws without federal intervention.  However, it is largely unknown what the new President will do when he or she takes office. Many fear that the next president may not take the same hands off approach.  Small business owners, medical marijuana patients, and others who follow state law fear that the next administration or even this one could reverse course and decide to intervene with the individual states ability to dictate their own laws as it pertains to marijuana.  This could have the effect of turning these medical patients and business entrepreneurs into federal criminals.

Rep. Polis believes that legalization and regulation will have many positive effects.  Namely, he believes that it will take money away from criminals and cartels and reroute those funds to grow the American economy.  He also believes that this regulation will help keep marijuana out of the hands of minors.  He states that these bills would provide individual states the freedom and peace of mind to legalize cannabis without fear of repercussions from federal government for doing so.

Rep. Blumenauer says that it is insane to shuffle billions of dollars to Mexican drug cartels when we could just be taxing it.  He estimates that the federal government could make $10 billion annually through legalization of marijuana.  He came to this figure by combining the total of the revenue collected from taxes and adding the amount of money that the government would save from arresting, holding, and prosecuting those for possession.  He sees it as a waste of tax dollars and an unnecessary way to ruin lives for nonviolent and victimless offenses.  He believes that the momentum is in favor of this type of legislation and says, “There’s little doubt in my mind that we ‘ve turned the corner on this”.

Are you interested in becoming involved in the marijuana industry? If so, you should contact legal counsel to learn of your rights and obligations. Please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc today.  The attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc are licensed to practice law before all Nevada state and federal courts. We are assisting individuals and groups interested in obtaining a medical marijuana facility license and also assist individual patients with any legal matters. If you are interested, contact one of the attorneys at Connor & Connor Pllc as soon as possible for a consultation.   You may contact the firm through email at info@connorpllc.com or by phone at or visit www.connorpllc.com. You may also visit the firm’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/ConnorConnorPllc. You can also follow the firm on twitter at https://twitter.com/Connor_pllc.