Federal Bills to Legalize Marijuana, Regulate Sales in U.S. to Be Introduced Today

By Thomas H. Clarke

WASHINGTON, DC —  Representatives from Oregon and Colorado will introduce two historic bills federal marijuana reform bills to Congress on Tuesday, one that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and allow states to determine their own policies, and the other that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana at the federal level.

U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) will introduce a bill that  would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies without the threat of federal interference.

Rep. Polis’ bill would set up a regulatory process similar to existing alcohol regulatory framework for states that choose to legalize marijuana.

Under Rep. Polis’ bill, oversight of marijuana would be removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration and given to the newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, and it would remain illegal to bring marijuana from a state where it’s legal to one where it isn’t.

Polis’ bill is based on a legalization measure introduced in 2011 by  former Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Ron Paul of Texas.

Meanwhile, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) intends to introduce a bill that would tax marijuana at the federal level. The bill would create a federal marijuana excise tax of 50% on the “first sale” of marijuana, typically, from a grower to a processor or retailer.

It also would tax marijuana producers and importers $1,000 annually, and other marijuana businesses $500.

Both Representatives, along with drug policy reform advocates, will discuss these measures at a teleconference this afternoon.

When residents of Colorado and Washington voted to end their state’s prohibition on marijuana last November, it was a watershed moment for our nation’s move towards sane marijuana laws,” said NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, who will be speaking at today’s teleconference.

“But there remains a lingering conflict between state and federal law. These historic measures seek to resolve this conflict and empower states to dictate their own marijuana policies, without fear of federal incursion. NORML would like to thank the Congressmen for taking this brave step forward and encourages their colleagues in Congress to join them in calling for sensible marijuana law reform.”

Additionally, Reps. Blumenauer and Polis will release a report 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 report states that “it is time for Congress to allow states and voters to decide how they want to treat marijuana. The current system is broken. It wastes resources and destroys individual lives, in turn damaging families and entire communities. It is past time to take action and stop this tragic waste in the future.”

The congressmen have also established 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.

http://www.thedailychronic.net/2013/15291/federal-bills-to-legalize-mari...

"Can we just stop being stupid?": High Time for Hemp

A Common Sense Crop for America's Common Good

Four years ago, Michelle Obama picked up a shovel and made a powerful symbolic statement about America's food and farm future: She turned a patch of White House lawn into a working organic garden.(Domiriel/Flickr)

That was a great move, earning kudos from just about everyone this side of Monsanto and the pesticide lobby. But now, as she begins another four years in the people's mansion, the first lady is probably asking herself: "How can I top that? What can I do this time around to plant a crop of common sense in our country's political soil that will link America's farmers, consumers, environment and grassroots economy into one big harvest of common good?"

Thanks for asking, Ms. Obama, and please allow me to intrude into your thoughts with a one-word suggestion: hemp. Plant a good, healthy stand of industrial hemp next to your organic garden!

This would, of course, drive the anti-drug zealots up the wall (a good place for them, I think). "Holy J. Edgar Hoover," they'd scream, "hemp is a distant cousin of marijuana!"

Well, yes, but the industrial variety of cannabis lacks the psychoactive aspects of pot, so their hysteria is misplaced. Industrial hemp won't make anyone high, but it certainly can make us happy, because it would deliver a new economic and environmental high for America.

Plus, hemp production is firmly rooted in American history. Question: Besides being founders of our republic, what did Thomas Jefferson and George Washington have in common? Answer: Both farmed hemp. Most of America's founders were strong promoters of this extraordinarily useful agricultural crop, with Jefferson declaring it to be "of first necessity ... to the wealth and protection of the country."

The first draft of our Constitution was written on hemp paper. "Old Ironsides" was powered by sails of hemp cloth. As late as World War II, the government urgently pushed farmers to grow the crop as part of a "Hemp for Victory" program.

So why are American farmers today prohibited from producing this patriotic, profitable, pesticide-free plant? Political nuttiness. Most recently, in a frenzy of reefer madness, U.S. drug police decided that President Dick Nixon's "Controlled Substance Act of 1970" not only outlawed marijuana, but also its non-narcotic cousin, industrial hemp.

If ignorance is bliss, they must've been ecstatic, yet their nuttiness remains the law of our land today.

While our nation is the world's biggest consumer of hemp products (from rope to shampoo, building materials to food), the mad masters of our insane "drug war" have lumped hemp and marijuana together as "Schedule 1 controlled substances" — making our Land of the Free the world's only industrialized country that bans farmers from growing this benign, profitable, job-creating and environmentally beneficial plant.

Thus, the U.S.A. is consuming millions of dollars' worth of products made from hemp, that hemp comes from producers in other countries, because our farmers aren't allowed to grow it in the U.S.A. and reap the economic benefits here at home.

The good news, though, is that a wave of sanity is now wafting across America. In Colorado, for example, farmer Michael Bowman and Denver hemp advocate Lynda Parker helped pass Amendment 64 in last fall's election. While it legalizes personal pot use, which got all the media attention, it also directs the legislature to set up a program for "the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp."

Bowman now hopes to be the first American farmer in generations to plant a legal crop of it. Appropriately enough, he hopes to do so on April 30 — the 80th birthday of family-farmer hero and hemp champion Willie Nelson.

Even red states like Kentucky are on the move. Its Republican ag commissioner, backed by its Chamber of Commerce, is campaigning to legalize hemp farming there, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is cosponsoring a national bill with Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden to take hemp off the controlled substance list.

As Bowman puts it: "Can we just stop being stupid?" To help move us in that direction, he's seeking 100,000 signatures on a online petition requesting that President Obama include the words "industrial hemp" in his Feb. 12 State of the Union speech. I'm sure the president would appreciate my advice on this, so I suggest he say: "First thing tomorrow morning, Michelle and I are going to give a symbolic jumpstart to the development of a thriving hemp industry in America by planting a stand of it on the White House lawn."

To sign Bowman's petition, go to the White House website: petitions.whitehouse.gov.

Jim Hightower

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

 

Federal Marijuana Reform Bills Introduced in Congress

by Philip Smith

WASHINGTON, DC — Two Democratic congressmen announced Tuesday that they are introducing legislation to reform federal marijuana policy. In a joint press conference that also included representatives of drug reform groups, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jared Polis (D-CO) announced two separate bills aimed at addressing the looming clash between intransigent federal marijuana policies and states that have or likely will legalize marijuana.

And more bills are pending, they said.

Blumenauer and Polis also released a report entitled “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy,” which outlines their perspective on marijuana policy and provides some background on regulation and opportunities for action. The congressmen have also established 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.

Polis’s Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act would remove the DEA’s authority over marijuana, end federal marijuana prohibition, and leave it to the states to decide whether to prohibit marijuana or not. Blumenauer’s Marijuana Tax Equity Act, House Bill 501, would create a federal excise tax on marijuana similar to those imposed on alcohol and tobacco.

Taken together, the two bills would provide for a system of marijuana regulation and taxation in states where it is legal.

More specifically, Polis’s bill would:

  • Remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Transfer the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to regulate marijuana to a newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, which will be tasked with regulating marijuana as it currently does alcohol;
  • Require marijuana producers to purchase a permit, as commercial alcohol producers do, of which the proceeds would offset the cost of federal oversight; and
  • Ensure federal law distinguishes between individuals who grow marijuana for personal use and those involved in commercial sale and distribution.

Blumenauer’s bill would:

  • Impose a 50% excise tax on the first sale of marijuana, from the producer to the next stage of production, usually the processor;
  • Impose an occupational tax similar to those in the tobacco and alcohol industries on those operating in marijuana, with producers, importers and manufacturers facing an occupation tax of $1,000 per year and any other person engaged in the business facing an annual tax of $500 per year;
  • Impose civil penalties for failure to comply with taxing duties. Criminal penalties will be assessed for intentional efforts to defraud the taxing authorities; and
  • Require the IRS to produce a study of the industry after two years, and every five years after that, and to issue recommendations to Congress to continue improving the administration of the tax.

The time has come for marijuana law reform at the federal level, the two congressmen said.

“There has been an enormous evolution of American opinion on marijuana. Americans are sick and tired of the costs of marijuana prohibition, whether it’s the financial costs or the human costs. Americans are saying enough is enough, let’s try a new policy. We need to address drug use as a public health issue, not a criminal justice one,” said Polis.

“My bill doesn’t affect the legal status of marijuana where it is currently illegal,” the Colorado congressman explained, “but it does allow states that have created either a legalized and regulated scheme for sales or that have medical marijuana laws to operate, without the constant fear that the federal government and the DEA and the other agencies will prosecute patients or businesses that are fully legal under state law. This is an idea whose time has come.”

“Forty years ago, as a freshman member of the Oregon legislature, I was able to vote to make Oregon the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana,” said Blumenauer. “Since then, 14 states have joined Oregon, and after California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, we now have 19 jurisdictions that have authorized it, and we now have the first two states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.”

The Oregon congressman added that he and Polis are working with a bipartisan group of representatives and that up to eight or 10 marijuana reform bills could be introduced this session.

“We’re looking at antiquated and sometimes nonsensical federal laws and policies to try to get us on a path that is less expensive, more productive, more fair, and more in tune with where America is going,” Blumenauer said. “We arrested two-thirds of a million people in 2011 for a substance most people think should be legal. The president said he has bigger fish to fry, but there are still people further down the federal food chain frying those fish.”

“This is a very exciting day,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Last November, voters in Colorado and Washington made history, and the polling shows that a majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana. There is no doubt more states will legalize in the years to come. This is the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition.”

“We were a primary backer of Amendment 64 in Colorado, which directed the state to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. “That’s how we believe it should be treated, and we look forward to working with Reps. Polis and Blumenauer to see that this legislation is eventually passed by Congress.”

If not this year, then soon, the congressmen said.

“There is growing support for this bill,” Polis argued. “There has really been a sea change; we saw test votes in the last Congress for defunding the DEA and other things, and saw very strong support, and that will only increase over time. Congress is frequently a lagging indicator for public opinion; it’s a question of Congress catching up.”

“This is the beginning, not the end,” said Blumenauer. “My bill is a first step and we anticipate some give and take, but this will be gaining momentum.  We’ve got legislation here today to get the ball rolling, but there will be more that you will be hearing about in the days ahead.”

“It’s clear that we’ve reached a tipping point,” said Piper. “Major changes are going to happen and are happening now. The American people are demanding reform, and members of Congress are starting to give it to them.”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 andNew Hampshire state legislatures, and lawmakers in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont are expected to bring forward similar legislation.

http://www.thedailychronic.net/2013/15346/federal-marijuana-reform-bills-introduced-in-congress/

Federal Legislation to Protect Medical Marijuana States Introduc

Bill Would Remove Marijuana from Schedule I and Halt Federal Government Interference With State Medical Marijuana Regulation

By Drug Policy Alliance

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced legislation to Congress Thursday that would recognize the medicinal use of marijuana and remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

The issue of regulating medical marijuana would be returned to the states, and individuals complying with state medical marijuana laws would be exempt from federal arrest and prosecution.  The bill, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, H.R. 689, also requires greater access to marijuana for medical research.

“The States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act will allow medical marijuana patients and businesses – who are complying with state law – the ability to access and distribute marijuana free from federal interference,” Blumenauer said.  “Nineteen jurisdictions have passed laws recognizing the importance of providing access to medical marijuana for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on it. It is time for the federal government to respect these decisions, and stop inhibiting safe access.”

Over the past decade, polls have consistently found that about three out of four Americans support medical marijuana.

“There is a plethora of scientific evidence establishing marijuana’s medical safety and efficacy and public polling for marijuana law reform is skyrocketing,” said Jasmine L. Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “However, when it comes to marijuana and the federal government, old fashioned politics routinely trumps modern science.  The States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act offers us hope we will see significant change with its passage.”

The bill was introduced with bipartisan cosponsorship, including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY),  Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Michael Honda (D-CA), and Jared Huffman (D-CA).

Every independent commission to examine marijuana policy has concluded that its harms have been greatly exaggerated – from the 1944 LaGuardia Report, to President Nixon’s 1972 Schaffer Commission report, to the Institute of Medicine’s congressionally-mandated 1999 report.

“Congress should move swiftly to acknowledge what patients, doctors, researchers and scientists have been telling us for years: marijuana has therapeutic and medicinal benefits,” said Tyler.

http://www.thedailychronic.net/2013/15536/federal-legislation-to-protect-medical-marijuana-states-introduced/

OR Rep Pushes States’ Rights Medical Marijuana Bill in Congress

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