On Friday, February 20, U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced two separate bills in Congress to legalize adult-use marijuana at the federal level.
Polis’ bill, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, would let states choose to legalize cannabis without any fear of federal intervention. The bill would put a federal regulatory structure into place to accommodate the new law. Blumenaur’s bill, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, would tax cannabis sales at the federal level, in addition to any state and local taxes.
Four states have already legalized marijuana use for adults over 21 (Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon), and 23 states (and Washington DC) allow medical marijuana use. Eleven more states have restrictive medical marijuana laws in place allowing the use of low-THC forms of marijuana (usually high in CBD)to treat certain medical conditions.
As noted on Polis’ website, “more than 213 million people live in a state or jurisdiction that allows the some form of legal use of marijuana.”
The Obama administration has implemented a “turn the other cheek” sort of policy when it comes to statewide cannabis legalization. The Department of Justice issued a memo stating that federal prosecutors should not interfere in any state-legal cannabis operations, “using [their] limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant marijuana-related cases.” The memo outlined exactly which cases those were. Additionally, the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment was passed last year, making it unconstitutional to use any federal funding in the prosecution of medical marijuana operations. Despite those mandates, a few U.S. attorneys, like Melinda Haag of San Francisco, have continued to unlawfully prosecute state-legal cannabis operations.
While the Obama administration has been relatively non-combative when it comes to statewide cannabis, a future administration might not be so amiable. If passed, the new bills would ensure the future of legal cannabis in the U.S., and likely change the game globally.