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  Efforts Surge in Congress to Reform Marijuana Laws
Posted by CN Staff on February 06, 2013 at 07:30:05 PT
By Alfonso Serrano 
Source: Time 

cannabis USA -- 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 Tuesday formally questioned the federal government’s prohibitionist drug policy in the form of marijuana reform bills.

Representatives Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., 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 bill 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. 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 that 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 drugs 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 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 non-profit that supports drug policy reform.

Passage of the two bills remains a long shot, according to analysts, but Rep. 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 Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he intends to hold hearings on the conflicts between state and federal marijuana laws. And Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, D-Calif., 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 reexamining 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.”

Alfonso Serrano is a Senior Editor at TIME.com

Source: Time Magazine (US)
Author: Alfonso Serrano
Published: February 6, 2013
Copyright: 2013 Time Inc.
Contact: letters@time.com
Website: http://www.time.com/time/
URL: http://drugsense.org/url/VIwlu9F9

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Comment #17 posted by ekim on February 07, 2013 at 19:51:41 PT
hey teacher leave those kids alone
http://michiganmedicalmarijuana.org/index.php?showtopic=42396&st=0

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #16 posted by FoM on February 07, 2013 at 19:30:38 PT
Hope
The problem with thinking that Republicans want less government and more personal responsibility is really what they say but they don't mean it. They want to keep women like they were before Roe vs Wade. They want to keep the military industrial complex booming yet don't care about wounded warriors. At least Democrats look at issue as moral issues. It is immoral to let the laws continue as they have been. I don't seem to think Republican politicians really care about that.

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Comment #15 posted by Hope on February 07, 2013 at 18:39:19 PT
Republicans should get with this program.
It's about less government and more personal responsibility.

But, I fear many won't, for various reasons. Cowardice being one of them.

I suspect many Democrats won't have the fortitude and courage to trust the people of this country this much.

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Comment #14 posted by The GCW on February 07, 2013 at 17:35:38 PT
Sam Adams,
I've seen some of the large taxes that are being considered, also.

I agree, high taxes will equate to bootlegging.

A good thing about Colorado's law is that it allows citizens to grow. That creates a backup plan for citizens. If the tax is too high there will be more citizens growing their own and / or getting the plant material from friends.

Citizens ability to cultivate will perhaps influence lower tax rates for the superpant.

Washington residence don't have that built into their law and may have less ability to avoid the larger taxes.

Colorado's law may help keep taxes lower or else enable lowering the high tax rate if they are found to be a negative...

But hey, cannabis is legal.

$50 or $100 tax per ounce is going to effect the outcome.

Every facet will effect this new venture.

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Comment #13 posted by Sam Adams on February 07, 2013 at 16:54:15 PT
the proposal
Yes, it's great to see "prohibition" in the name of the bill! I think we should push even farther and start going with the "Great Prohibition" when we talk about cannabis.

However, is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking? If it's going to be taxed at 50% or higher, we better get used to a long period of bootlegging - like maybe forever.

If cannabis is $100 per ounce at the store, and your friend will sell it to you for $60 an ounce, then prohibition isn't over.

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Comment #12 posted by MikeEEEEE on February 07, 2013 at 15:35:52 PT
Caring?
While I believe as you do about prohibition failures part I and II, I really do not think congress cares. These are the same creatures who made hurricane Sandy victims wait MONTHS for relief. I imagine they care a lot less about drug war victims.

But I have to agree, the end is near for prohibition. Walls crack without adaquate support, from their own weight and time.

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #11 posted by disvet13 on February 07, 2013 at 14:30:09 PT:

when?
hope someone posts when these bills comes up for debate on the floor of the house of reps. know yer enemies.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #10 posted by FoM on February 07, 2013 at 11:42:44 PT
The GCW
I would be so proud of him too!

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #9 posted by The GCW on February 07, 2013 at 09:49:24 PT
Want to mention,
I'm pleased to say Representative Jared Polis, D-Colorado is My Congressman.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #8 posted by FoM on February 07, 2013 at 09:17:45 PT
Kaptinemo
I agree. I really believe our time has come.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on February 07, 2013 at 08:55:15 PT:

GCW, FoM, I just can't stop smiling
Polis's naming of the Bill was, as the physicists I use to work with would say of a neat, simple theory to describe complex actions, 'elegant'. It is world-class legislative jiu-jitsu of the first order. I just can't stop laughing.

How can the prohibs fight it? The very name accuses the policy of failure...and by implication, accuses those who support the policy of being failures, themselves. See how it works?

All the prohibs can do if this hits the House floor is argue for more failure. It's self-defeating to do so, particularly with the generational shift bringing cannabis-wise voters to the polling booths.

They know they were lied to and manipulated by the DrugWarriors as kids. They know that the DrugWarriors thought of them as little wind-up toys, programmable robots whose heads could be filled with lies they'd contain and act upon as directed. That's how most authoritarians see those around them.

Well, those kids who were told to "Just Say No!" grew up, vomited up that dreck long ago and on last Election Day they said "Just Say Know!"...and on the basis of facts made a vote of no confidence in the DrugWar.

This cannot be over-emphasized. The import of this, the impact, is astonishing. THE DRUG WAR HAS LOST THE VERY GENERATION IT NEEDS TAXPAYER FUNDING FROM TO SURVIVE.

The old folks who believed Reefer Madness are almost gone, neutralized by age and death. That generation unthinkingly gave its' support to the DrugWar by voting for pols who voted for appropriations for DrugWar agencies.

The latest generation isn't going to be so supportive. An icicle in Hell stands a better chance of survival than the DrugWar does from a voting, engaged electorate who don't believe in the DrugWar and who don't want to pay for what they don't believe in.

The cannabis prohibition dam has had a HUGE breach in its' facade, and there's still gigatons of water pressing at the breach, eroding it further from behind. And the DrugWarriors in the valley below are obstinately, arrogantly standing in the water already released, up to their waists, daring the dam to give further.

And after having suffered their 'tender mercies', I am not inclined to throw them a life-preserver when the final collapse begins...unless the life-preserver is filled with lead shot.



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Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 07, 2013 at 06:40:06 PT
Kaptinemo
Thank you!

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #5 posted by The GCW on February 07, 2013 at 06:37:18 PT
Republicans should see a lot to like in his bill.
Why Republicans Should Support Marijuana Reform

One of the congressmen who introduced a pot reform bill this week explains why the GOP should agree with him.

Democrats in Congress may be taking the lead on marijuana reform, but Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, the Democrat who introduced a bill this week that would make the federal government treat marijuana the way it treats alcohol, says Republicans should see a lot to like in his bill.

Cont.

...

Still, for lawmakers who hail from states that haven’t enacted medical marijuana or legalization statutes, “it’s still a non-issue, so it’s harder to get it on their agenda.”

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/why-republicans-should-support-marijuana-reform

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #4 posted by The GCW on February 07, 2013 at 06:22:07 PT
kaptinemo,
thanks for pointing that out.

[ Post Comment ]
 
Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on February 07, 2013 at 06:14:07 PT:

Look at the Bill's name. We've arrived, my friends
Polis and Blumenauer are freakin' geniuses to come up with this.

The "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act" (Emphasis mine - k.)

I don't believe even many of us 'veterans' in this fight truly understand what this means. It is a bald-faced punch in the nose to the prohibs, for their pet neurosis has been named in a piece of legislation.

The American public is taught in school that alcohol Prohibition was a failure. Everyone knows that. What the prohibs were pee-their-pants terrified of was that if the voting public made the obvious connection between then and now, the jig would be up.

Reformers began to pound the reform drum to the beat of "PRO-hi-bi-tion, PRO-hi-bi-tion!" in all of our LTE's...and it worked! At long last, the linkage was made in the public's awareness.

(The prohibs tried to counter that by pathetically calling themselves 'preventionists', which only dug their ideological and political graves deeper with an obviously fainthearted attempt at further obfuscation. They stopped that soon enough when they realized nobody save those with room temperature IQ's were fooled.)

And now? This latest legislative attempt names the Beast, directly...and proposes to slay it. By not dancing around it, by confronting it directly, a huge gauntlet has been thrown down: the prohibs will have to directly defend a concept whose name is tied to a historically-proven failure; it doesn't get any plainer than that..

This puts the prohibs on the defense, a position they have traditionally been at their weakest. Pols antagonistic to reform will be directly asked why they continue to support 'prohibition', which is universally regarded as a failure.

Oh, man, the sparks will fly in Congress and the phone lines of obstructionist pols are going to get very hot indeed. I can hardly wait.



[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #2 posted by The GCW on February 06, 2013 at 19:17:38 PT
Good info
Wash. toxicologist: No spike yet in marijuana DUIs

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state toxicologist says she hasn't seen a spike in positive blood tests for marijuana since pot became legal under Washington law.

Voters last fall passed Initiative 502, allowing adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The measure, which took effect Dec. 6, set a driving-under-the-influence limit designed to be similar to the .08 blood-alcohol content for drunken driving - 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood.

State toxicologist Fiona Couper told a legislative hearing in Olympia on Wednesday that the Washington State Patrol's toxicology lab has completed tests on all blood samples taken from drivers in December, and has started on samples from last month. She says there's no spike, but notes the law has only just taken effect.

Couper says that every year, about 6,000 blood samples from drivers are submitted to the lab. About 1,000 to 1,100 of those come back positive for active THC, with the average being about 6 nanograms.

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020302783_apwalegalizingmarijuanadui.html

[ Post Comment ]

 
Comment #1 posted by FoM on February 06, 2013 at 14:12:06 PT
Two House Dems on Recreational MJ: Legalize It
February 6, 2013

When voters in Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use last November, some wondered how the new statewide statutes would square with federal law, which still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

But Rep. Jared Polis, D-Col., believes that a legal confrontation can be avoided: on Tuesday, along with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., he introduced a bill legalizing marijuana and regulating it under the renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, and Firearms.

The "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act" would charge the renamed bureau with regulating marijuana as it does alcohol and tobacco. States would still be allowed to ban marijuana production and it would remain illegal to transport marijuana to a state where such a ban exists.

"This legislation doesn't force any state to legalize marijuana, but Colorado and the 18 other jurisdictions that have chosen to allow marijuana for medical or recreational use deserve the certainty of knowing that federal agents won't raid state-legal businesses," said Polis in a press release. "Congress should simply allow states to regulate marijuana as they see fit and stop wasting federal tax dollars on the failed drug war."

URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-34222_162-57567932-10391739/two-house-dems-on-recreational-marijuana-legalize-it/

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