Pot Plans: Efforts Surge in Congress to Reform Marijuana Laws

Congress introduces legislation to respond to the increasingly popular marijuana-legalization movement

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Nick Adams / REUTERS

Marijuana is broken up for use by customers at Frankie Sports Bar and Grill in Olympia, Washington, on Dec. 9, 2012

Driven by a groundswell of public opinion, Colorado and Washington State last November became the first states in the U.S. to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. That wave of support, it now seems clear, has echoed through the U.S. Congress, which on Tuesday formally questioned the federal government’s prohibitionist drug policy in the form of marijuana-reform bills.

Representatives Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, and Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, introduced two separate bills that would drastically change U.S. marijuana laws by addressing what they say are the human and fiscal costs associated with marijuana-related arrests.

It’s not the first time marijuana-reform bills have been introduced in Congress, but Tuesday’s measures are considered historic in scope and give further momentum to a marijuana-legalization movement that has surged recently from Colorado to Washington to Latin America.

The Polis bill, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, would call on the federal government to regulate marijuana much like it does alcohol. Under the measure, cannabis growers would have to obtain a federal permit in states that legalize the drug. The bill does not force any state to legalize pot, but it does allow states that approve recreational- and medical-marijuana regulatory systems to operate without the fear of crackdowns from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The measure would also transfer authority to regulate marijuana from the DEA to a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms.

“In my short time in Congress, and certainly over the last few decades, Americans have increasingly come to the conclusion that the drug war is a failed policy,” said Polis. “While substance abuse is a real problem we need to address, we need to address it increasingly as a public-health issue more than a criminal issue.”

The Blumenauer bill, meanwhile, would create a taxation framework for pot similar to that in place for tobacco and alcohol. The Marijuana Tax Equity Act would impose an excise tax of 50% on the “first sale” of marijuana, from growers to processors or retailers. The measure would also tax pot producers $1,000 annually and other marijuana-related businesses $500. Blumenauer said imposing such a tax would help lower the national deficit while providing funds for drug-treatment centers and law-enforcement units.

“There is an opportunity for us to make, at a minimum, a $100 billion difference over the next 10 years,” said Blumenauer.

There were 1.5 million drug arrests made in the U.S. in 2011, according to the FBI. Of those arrests, over 660,000 were for possession of marijuana. The enforcement of federal marijuana laws, including incarceration, costs at least $5.5 billion annually, according to a study by the Cato Institute. In New York State alone, the estimated cost of marijuana-related arrests surpasses $75 million every year, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that supports drug-policy reform.

Passage of the two bills remains a long shot, according to analysts, but Blumenauer said the measures are just the beginning of a congressional push to reform what he calls “antiquated, ineffective and, in some cases, nonsensical federal policies and laws.” Blumenauer pointed to a growing swell of support for marijuana-reform measures among his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

In December, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said he intends to hold hearings on the conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws. And Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, is soon expected to introduce a measure that would allow states to establish pot policies without federal interference.

“These are the first two of what will probably be eight, 10 bills or more,” said Blumenauer, referring to Tuesday’s measures. Added Polis: “There is growing support within the Democratic caucus and also within the Republican caucus for re-examining the future of the drug war.”

The sudden flurry of federal action on cannabis comes as national polls highlight an outpouring of support for marijuana legalization in recent years. A Gallup poll in October showed that a record high 50% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal. By contrast, just over 30% of Americans held the same view in 2000. Support for medical marijuana is even stronger. A 2012 Gallup poll indicated that 70% of Americans believe it should be legal for a doctor to prescribe pot to reduce pain and suffering.

“Congress is frequently a lagging indicator for public opinion,” said Polis. “Public opinion is that it should be up to states and local governments how to deal with marijuana — it’s just a question of how we’re going to catch up, not if.”

265 comments
kriton12
kriton12

In a bill like the ones purposed there has to be some regards given to people that want to grow their own with out some sort of stupid license. Possibly a 2-4 four plant rule, something similar to home brewing. NO GOVERNMENT INVOLVED.

XpressPage
XpressPage

Medical or not, Marijuana is and has proved to be very helpful to people for many years. This fight about it being legal or not should not even be an issue. The government doesnt need to regulate it, It is up to each individual what they chose to do. Government with too much power and control!!!

Let people live!!!

JamesGriggs
JamesGriggs

medical marijuana helps my anxiety, depression, joint pains, and back pains. i don't like pain pills because i've seen the long term effect of people doing anything and everything they can to get more. it's a nasty thing to be addicted to. drugs like xanax, valium, or klonopin are just as addictive if not more, but even worse cause you to 'black out' and do things you normally wouldn't do without memory of doing it. i've tried just about all the anxiety/depression meds and none of them work in a desirable manner. the side effects normally outweigh the benefits. i've smoked marijuana for years, however, and the only side effects i get from it are hunger, couchlock, and extreme interest in learning how random things work =]

MarieKush
MarieKush

Yes, I feel the government needs more money just like a gambling addict who has just found a new casino; resulting in the North American governments bringing in a new law for marijuana growers. Now the federal government is thinking of terminating the ‘marijuana growing’ licenses of regular Canadian pot growers. So in future, only the government will give out the medical marijuana. Looks like, somehow they feel   that they can grow it, better than the experienced weed growers.
Source from where i got this news is  - http://bigbudsmag.com/grow/article/marijuana-growers-canada-advanced-nutrients-hydroponics

HighPlainsRiffer
HighPlainsRiffer

Right...from the folks who brought you "Fast and Furious" now comes Federal Marijuana Tax and Grow Permits.  Tell it to the weed! 

JCraigCanada
JCraigCanada

The government doesn't need more money.  It needs to stop spending money on crap like bombing other countries over oil and bailing out Wall Street.

Taxing marijuana for more police, more government, and more nuclear power?  Taxing medicine?

This is not the movement I signed up for.

The government needs more money like a gambling addict needs a blank check. 

19shane
19shane

Estimates show that marijuana is America’s number one cash crop. However, marijuana remains untaxed. This is a new source of income for our nation, an income we desperately need.

Over 500 of the nation’s top economic professors have shared their opinion in supporting the removal of prohibition and imposing the taxation and regulation of marijuana as a way to slow the federal deficit.

Marijuana prohibition is costing America upwards of $20 billion annually. The hemp industry would not only create jobs, it would free up court time and jail space for real criminals among many other benefits. The list could go on.

Sign the petition in the video description.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_tUy6fylQs

DarrylDabigdDavis
DarrylDabigdDavis

WHAT A BUNCH OF MORONS! POT DOES NOTHING FOR YOU EXCEPT FRY YOUR BRAIN CELLS. OH WAIT--IF YOU ARE SMOKING POT--YOU HAVE NO BRAIN!


I USE CAPS BECAUSE I CANNOT READ LOWER CASE LETTERS WITHOUT SQUINTING.


POTHEADS ARE ABOUT AS INTELLIGENT AS A PILE OF HORSE SHIT!


WAIT, THAT WAS CRUEL...TO HORSE SHIT!


GET THE HELL OUT OF OUR COUNTRY YOU NO GOOD FOR NOTHING POT SMOKING RIGHT WING GOVERNMENT DEFRAUDING IDIOTS!



MichaelLeeSimon
MichaelLeeSimon

I have found that this works exceedingly well in breaking down opposition:

Medical Marijuana prohibition is a crime against humanity and a violation of the religious precept - heal the sick.

http://classicalvalues.com/2013/02/cb2/


It is especially important to follow the link to get the full effect. When you read it you will see why. It is short.

PerryPolson
PerryPolson

I dont know why anything OUR SOCALLED LEADERS DO shocks me any more ? IMO- At this point how ever the laws make us ALL look foolish and lame !

Let alone weak ! NOT A GOOD LOOK FOR A   ( WORLD POWER ) ?

PerryPolson
PerryPolson

Denying someone treatment and with holding anything that has a chance of providing comfort if not detouring growth OF CANCER CELLS and possibly curing someone of a deadly and debilitating diseases !

Only to stop a few from abusing something that is more than likely the safest thing they could abuse ! And the fact that if they don't have this to abuse IT WILL BE SOMETHING ELSE ! & FARE WORSE !

Sea_View
Sea_View

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/113-h499/show


Register with opencongress.org to easily send all your representatives know you are supporting the Polis' bill. The link is above.


If you want to support the Blumenauer bill, I can't provide the link. I don't support federally taxing weed at 50%.

JAVIERDCH12
JAVIERDCH12

Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell are pushing for hemp legalization in kentucky, at least

Wasatcher
Wasatcher

It's about time our illustrious leaders accomplished something worthwhile!  The war against Americans, I mean against drugs, has not worked and it's time to stop wasting time and money on a failed policy!  Legalize now and get off our backs about everything else that is none of the government's damn business!  You may even gain some respect from the American people if you were to actually accomplish the decriminalization of weeds!

FiLtErDeViL
FiLtErDeViL

I live in small california town called Needles.  One of our local stores was recently raided by STATE officals, as opposed to feds.  It was all a sham, the brain child of our old, small minded leaders who consider themselves the rulers of our town.  No drug charges were brought (mainly because a cali judge would dismiss the case and chastise the arresting officers and prosecuting DA).  Just petty harassment like parhenalia and building codes.   The whole point is, red neck, right wing, anti progressives will do anything and everything to kick and drag their feet from entering the future.  Bring awearness to the unenlighted and watch your backs.   Even in places were we have won the legal battle their are still ways the sore losers can screw you.

Foreseen
Foreseen

Time the government to quit telling people that marijuana is bad for you and synthetic marijuana is legal.I believe that marijuana should be legal for people of certain ages, determined by the State of residents or a prescription.I've been arrested twice as a juvenile for possession and cultivating marijuana 34 years ago.Medical and Industrial Marijuana needs to be made legal.

AnthonyQuatroni
AnthonyQuatroni

Yeah it would be nice to light one up in front of a cop and laugh. . . About time this travesty is reformed. Politics and money have driven the "drug war" and there have been no winners in that war, except the government, who makes money off of the illegal status of drugs in many ways and the prison system, that perpetuates itself based upon these idiotic laws.

cknight29
cknight29

If you put too much tax on marijuana it will only encourage people to buy it illegally. After all drug dealers just have to lower their prices so that their product is cheaper than the legally sold product. If you want to beat the bad guys the price of marijuana needs to be comparable to the price of alcohol. The astronomically high price that users currently pay for marijuana is a consequence of its illegality (marijuana is relatively cheap to cultivate).

MarkElron
MarkElron

The drug war has always been a fantastic success for fascists, and they will fight to retain that power! Fascism is the mental illness this country is facing right now; "hurt your neighbor" is the distraction game of people who are being abused as slaves and have no way out. COPS was the modern Roman Arena; it was a blazing success because we are sadistic, cruel, and systematically unfair. 

dkgolfer53
dkgolfer53

My son was arrested in Carrollton, TX for possession of 'drug paraphernalia', which consisted of a sandwich baggie that had been stuck under his seat for at least a year.  No drugs, pipes, rolling papers, matches or anything remotely resembling drugs were found.  The police searched his car for over an hour piece by piece.  He was handcuffed and taken to jail, charged and convicted.  How is ruining a young person's future making society safer?

SethGreen
SethGreen

my name is Seth Green i live in Bluff City, Tennessee and i would like to address an issue i have an that is Medical Marijuana being legal in the state of Tennessee. Im 22 years old i have Cerebral Palsy on my right side as well as seizures artistes in my back. I have been in an out of the hospital since i was born, the doctors that i have talked to said that they would try an help get me the best heath care out there. Unfortunately they have not, They will not give me any pain medications under the new law. I went to a Pain Management in my local city, they said that they would do steroids shot in my back. I did research on the matter an i believe that 6 people has died by giving steroid shot, I do not want to take them because of the risk. I would like for you to think about this an address this with your fellow cabnit members because my family doctor said to go ahead and smoke even thou its illegal. Marijuana honestly help my cerebral palsy and my pain issues an with the pain im having is causing me to have seizures more an more and i honestly can not take the pain much longer i hate breaking the law, but i do not want to live in pain. I would like to reduce the pain the best i can. When the doctors will not give me the pain medications that i need i have to find something to help an Marijuana is helping. It shows in studies that marijuana help arthritis as well my seizures. Do not know where else to turn, and i am hoping that there will be a bill put in place in Tennessee where Medical Marijuana will be legal for people in my situation. Thank you for your time. P.S can you help get my story out front so it could be heard

HighPlainsRiffer
HighPlainsRiffer

@19shane   The reason why it's America's Number One cash crop is because it's illegal.  As soon as it's legal, and people can throw a seed on the ground without fear of their property being confiscated by the gangsters, the black market disappears.  

HighPlainsRiffer
HighPlainsRiffer

@DarrylDabigdDavis  Darryl, you would benefit from some Anger Management counseling.  It's okay if you don't smoke pot, nobody will accuse you of stepping in horse pucky unless you walk on their carpet and track it all over the place.  HERE'S A CLUE, IT'S CALLED FREEDOM.  Take it or leave it, but leave the rest of us alone if you prefer to live in chains and manacles. 

BrandonAnderson1
BrandonAnderson1

@DarrylDabigdDavis you are clearly uneducated. Please read a medical book of some sort or maybe try reading a book at all. Uneducated people like you are the reason out country is in such ruins yet you still complain about how shitty our economy is. Please do us and yourself a favor and stay away from TVs and stay off the Internet before you freak out and shoot up a town.

19shane
19shane

Hmm. Did yo know George Washington and a plethora of our founding fathers actually had marijuana farms? Did you even know that the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper? 

Steve Jobs smoked marijuana, so did Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

SINCE YOU CAN'T READ LOWER CASE, DID YOU KNOW MARIJUANA HAS BEEN USED AS A TREATMENT FOR GLAUCOMA?



DonRowlett
DonRowlett

@Sea_View I would prefer that marijuana be regulated like tomatoes instead of like alcohol or tobacco. Free to use and grow for personal use and sharing with others. Get a permit and pay taxes if you go commercial.

Sea_View
Sea_View

@AnthonyQuatroni There are many cops who don't support the war on drugs. They're just doing their jobs. See Leap.org.

Wasatcher
Wasatcher

@dkgolfer53 The same thing happened to my teenage son in Nevada  . . . where pot is decriminalized but paraphernalia isn't!  Double standards that destroy young lives!  

SandyMan
SandyMan

Right there with you, sister!  I have watched many people - young, old, middle-aged - have their lives ruined over a little marijuana!  Then Daddy's in jail for a little pot, Mommy can't work and pay daycare, so guess what?  Taxpayers foot the bill for housing assistance, food stamps, WIC, daycare credits if Mom is lucky enough to be able to work.  I'm a taxpayer and a HUMAN BEING!  Stop ruining people's lives!!! And, stop getting into my pocketbook!!!

FlyingTooLow
FlyingTooLow

We all know that someday, soon, this prohibition will end.

I spent 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense.

The memorable day that I met with the parole panel, I asked, "When pot becomes legal, what will my 5 years spent in prison have meant?"

Their response, "That is a very philosophical question. We don't deal with philosophy in this office."

Case closed...go back to your cell. When the 5 years were gone, I walked out and never looked back. But, I know to this day, there are thousands of Americans still rotting in jail over a plant.

I wrote about the escapades that led to my imprisonment...the book:
Shoulda Robbed a Bank

I admit, I had a great time. No one was injured, no one was killed, firearms were not involved...there were no victims.  We were Americans...doing what Americans do best...living free.

FlyingTooLow
FlyingTooLow

@SethGreen...

If you Google 'medicinal marijuana articles'...follow that search with 'within the last 24 hours'...post your message at all of these sites.  Your story is sincere and from the heart.  People will respond.  'Our' government needs to amend these absurd prohibitionist laws.

I wish you the very best,  Hugh Yonn

InLove0607
InLove0607

@SethGreen I'm in a similar situation. I have epilepsy (Full blown seizures). For those of you who don't understand, my brain short circuits which causes me to loose full control and blackout. It's been happening for about 7 years now. Every time I have a seizure it very scary, not just for myself but for anyone who is around when it happens. My stepdaughter wouldn't come home for 3 days after she witnessed one and no one else was  home but her and I, she was 16 at the time. Not to mention the PAIN after, I can't function for days after I have one. I have been on EVERY seizure med they have and none of them work for me, even the $900/month out of my pocket medication. My neurologist is considering brain surgery to eliminate the part of my brain that causes the seizures. The problem with that is I will also be loosing the part of my brain that controls speech and some motor functions. So, I can put up with the seizures or become a little more than a vegetable. (Great choice, I just can't figure out which is the less of two evils). I live in Florida where the Medical Marijuana bill has been shot down three times. I told my doctor that when I smoke, I don't have the seizures, or the horrible uncontrollable shaking in my hands from the meds, or the horrible headaches the meds also cause. He told me to do whatever I have to do to control them, including smoking Marijuana. My husband and I are actually considering moving to another state that has OK'd it's medical use so I don't have to break the law. I would be happy to pay tax on the one "Medication" that actually has helped. So, Mr. Green I understand probably better than anyone else your position, and they can't give me pain meds because they could cause more seizures. I can't even take the over the counter one's (aspirin). Even if it's for the wrong reasons, I'm grateful someone has realized this is a problem, and mabie one day we won't  have to break the law just to function on a daily basis.

PerryPolson
PerryPolson

Wish we could wipe refer madness out of the mindless masses heads !

Sea_View
Sea_View

@DonRowlett @Sea_View Whatever happens to get it legalized, it's not going to be perfect. I don't think having it regulated like a vegetable is going to happen. But the federal government taxing it at 50% is ridiculous. I am in Washington, and our state is already taxing it at 75% (25% at each level). Legalization will fail if the feds make it prohibitively expensive for people to grow and sell. I know I can't grow weed, and I don't want to.

PerryPolson
PerryPolson

Maybe someday @ the farmers markit ( with ID of corse )

Wasatcher
Wasatcher

@FlyingTooLow I'm sorry our useless government stole 5 years of your life and I hope you have a great life after federal prison.  Ridiculous . . . I'm sorry for the hassle you've been through!  

marsh025
marsh025

reading the two of you comments brings tears to my eyes.

such stupidity on the part of the govt. I live in florida too and the sad part is that this state will probably be the last to even do medical marijuana.

such backwards thinking folks.

DonRowlett
DonRowlett

@PerryPolson There were two additional propaganda films released during that period of the mid-1930's. Most people were trusting of everything that was broadcast to them. Fear-mongering and racism stirred the passions of those dreaming of a white utopia. Using a Mexican slang word, marihuna, further intensified xenophobia and duped those who only knew the plant as hemp or cannabis. It was too late when people figured out that marihuana is a slang word for the plant and not a drug at all.

Sea_View
Sea_View

@DonRowlett @Sea_View I agree. Unfortunately, too many people don't know the difference between smokeable cannabis and hemp. The ignorance to the difference doesn't help the cause.

DonRowlett
DonRowlett

@Sea_View @DonRowlett I agree with you. The obvious solution is to allow industrial hemp. However, those who benefit from the cannabis prohibition would rather keep their power and encourage the government shake down of non-commercial individuals. This has never been about drugs but about obscene greed and tyrannical power. All of this regulation is not for public health or any such non-sense but for modulating and monitoring economic shifts that could adversely affect a few billionaire families. Allowing farmers to grows acres of hemp would benefit the people but be disastrous to a few billionaires.

Wasatcher
Wasatcher

@FlyingTooLow You're welcome!  Our government is embarrassingly corrupt and ONLY cares about money and keeping average Americans from making any!  Hope you make millions and live a great life so that the five years they took from you will have been worth the wait!    

FlyingTooLow
FlyingTooLow

The worst part of this equation is that it's all about the money and where it goes.

I traveled extensively in Colombia, South America in the 1970's, and very early 80's. My reason for being there: to buy the best marijuana I could find for shipment to the United States.

The people I dealt with were not the killers depicted by our government. They were Moms and Pops with families. And some of the nicest, most honorable people I have ever met.

This is not a war 'against' drugs. This is a war for 'control' of the drugs.
And the involved governments' only concerns are, 'Who gets the money.'

Once these products are legalized, we can all live in peace. The quality of the product will determine its market.

Just like lettuce and tomatoes.

A million thanks for your comment, Wasatcher,  Hugh Yonn