A legislation package introduced in the U.S. Senate and House on Thursday could potentially help marijuana reform and protect states’ rights to establish their own laws without federal interference. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer from Oregon have sponsored the set of bills that seek to end prohibition in a way that serves the government and marijuana business while keeping the public out of jail for minor marijuana related offenses. As more and more states choose to legalize marijuana, the bills seem like a reasonable step forward. The legislative package is called The Path to Marijuana Reform and is made up of 3 separate bills that focus on taxes, marijuana scheduling and federal punishment for states that have legalized marijuana.
The Small Business Tax Equity Act
This first bill focuses on taxing marijuana businesses in the same way that other small businesses are taxed as opposed to being treated like criminals. Currently, marijuana businesses are not given tax deductions or credits and this bill would change that.
The Responsibly Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act
Currently, because of the federal penalties in place for selling a Schedule I drug, marijuana businesses cannot get access to banking for their businesses. This puts them in a high risk environment because of the large amounts of cash involved that cannot be deposited anywhere. Veterans are also affected because currently, if they get on a medical marijuana program they could lose all their benefits and rights as veterans. This bill removes that risk and also allows Native Americans to use and sell the plant with no federal interference.
The Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act
Right now, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, placing it in the highest risk drug category alongside heroin. This classification makes it illegal on a federal level. This bill seeks to remove the classification and reschedule the plant, so that it can be treated in the same way that alcohol and cigarettes are treated. Incidentally, neither alcohol nor cigarettes are as healthy or safe as marijuana. By rescheduling the plant, the federal government would be able to add a federal tax to the sale of marijuana products and actually make a lot of money as opposed to spending it on law enforcement, court and jail costs for minor marijuana offenses.
Challenges Facing the Path to Marijuana Reform Package
The main obstacle in place is that both House and Senate are Republican dominated and statistically they are less likely to be supportive of marijuana reform although this isn’t always the case. The other issue is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a longtime opponent of marijuana reform and has made comments lately about the federal government cracking down on marijuana.
“I’m particularly concerned because it appears that the attorney general wants to cherry-pick, apparently on the basis of some kind of whim, which states’ rights he likes and which ones he doesn’t like,” Wyden said. “My sense is increasingly there are some in Washington, D.C., who say they favor states’ rights only to do so if they think the state is right.”
There’s an uphill battle ahead, as always, with marijuana reform but if any progress occurs thanks to these bills, it will be a win for cannabis and the people.