Reform Efforts In Congress Range From Pot To Hemp

Feb 4, 2013

An effort is build­ing in Con­gress to change U.S. mar­i­juana laws, includ­ing moves to legal­ize the indus­trial pro­duc­tion of hemp and estab­lish a fed­eral pot tax. While pas­sage this year could be a long­shot, law­mak­ers from both par­ties have been qui­etly work­ing on sev­eral bills, the first of which Demo­c­ra­tic Reps. Earl Blu­me­nauer of Ore­gon and Jared Polis of Col­orado plan to intro­duce Tues­day, Blu­me­nauer told The Asso­ci­ated Press. Polis’ mea­sure would reg­u­late mar­i­juana the way the fed­eral gov­ern­ment han­dles alco­hol: In states that legal­ize pot, grow­ers would have to obtain a fed­eral per­mit. 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. The bill is based on a legal­iza­tion mea­sure pre­vi­ously pushed by for­mer Reps. Bar­ney Frank of Mass­a­chu­setts and Ron Paul of Texas. Blumenauer’s bill would cre­ate a fed­eral mar­i­juana excise tax. Last fall’s votes in Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton state to legal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana should push Con­gress to end the 75-year fed­eral pot pro­hi­bi­tion, Blu­me­nauer said. “You folks in Wash­ing­ton and my friends in Col­orado really upset the apple cart,” Blu­me­nauer said. “We’re still arrest­ing two-thirds of a mil­lion peo­ple for use of a sub­stance that a major­ity feel should be legal. … It’s past time for us to step in and try to sort this stuff out.” Advo­cates who are work­ing with the law­mak­ers acknowl­edge it could take years for any changes to get through Con­gress, but they’re encour­aged by recent devel­op­ments. Sen­ate Minor­ity Leader Mitch McConnell last week came out in sup­port of efforts to legal­ize hemp in his home state of Ken­tucky, and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is expected to intro­duce leg­is­la­tion allow­ing states to set their own pol­icy on mar­i­juana. Sen­ate Judi­ciary Chair­man Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has indi­cated he plans to hold a hear­ing on the con­flict between state and fed­eral mar­i­juana laws and has urged an end to fed­eral “manda­tory min­i­mum” sen­tences that lead to long prison stints for drug crimes. “We’re see­ing enor­mous polit­i­cal momen­tum to undo the drug war fail­ings of the past 40 years,” said Bill Piper, direc­tor of national affairs for the Drug Pol­icy Alliance, who has been work­ing with law­mak­ers on marijuana-related bills. “For the first time, the wind is behind our back.” The Jus­tice Depart­ment hasn’t said how it plans to respond to the votes in Wash­ing­ton and Col­orado. It could sue to block the states from issu­ing licenses to mar­i­juana grow­ers, proces­sors and retail stores, on the grounds that doing so would con­flict with fed­eral drug law. Blu­me­nauer and Polis are due to release a paper this week urg­ing Con­gress to make a num­ber of changes, includ­ing alter­ing tax codes to let mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries deduct busi­ness expenses on fed­eral taxes, and mak­ing it eas­ier for marijuana-related busi­nesses to get bank accounts. Many oper­ate on a cash basis because fed­er­ally insured banks won’t work with them, they noted. Blu­me­nauer said he expects to intro­duce the tax-code leg­is­la­tion as well as a bill that would resched­ule mar­i­juana under the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act, allow­ing states to enact med­ical mar­i­juana laws with­out fear that fed­eral author­i­ties will con­tinue raid­ing dis­pen­saries or pros­e­cut­ing providers. It makes no sense that mar­i­juana is a Sched­ule I drug, in the same cat­e­gory as heroin and a more restric­tive cat­e­gory than cocaine, Blu­me­nauer said. The mea­sures have lit­tle chance of pass­ing, said Kevin Sabet, a for­mer White House drug pol­icy adviser. Sabet recently joined for­mer Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy and for­mer Pres­i­dent George W. Bush speech­writer David Frum in form­ing a group called Project SAM – for “smart approaches to mar­i­juana” – to counter the grow­ing legal­iza­tion move­ment. Sabet noted that pre­vi­ous fed­eral legal­iza­tion mea­sures have always failed. “These are really extreme solu­tions to the mar­i­juana prob­lem we have in this coun­try,” Sabet said. “The mar­i­juana prob­lem we have is a prob­lem of addic­tion among kids, and stigma of peo­ple who have a crim­i­nal record for mar­i­juana crimes. “There are a lot more peo­ple in Con­gress who think that mar­i­juana should be ille­gal but treated as a pub­lic health prob­lem, than think it should be legal.” Project SAM sug­gests peo­ple shouldn’t get crim­i­nal records for small-time mar­i­juana offenses, but instead could face pro­ba­tion or treat­ment. Source: Asso­ci­ated Press (Wire) Author: Gene John­son, Asso­ci­ated Press Pub­lished: Feb­ru­ary 4, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Asso­ci­ated Press

e6c21705d7el img.jpg 150x65 Reform Efforts In Congress Range From Pot To Hemp

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Reform Efforts In Con­gress Range From Pot To Hemp

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